Case report: ventricular fibrillation and cardiac arrest provoked by forward bending in adolescent with severe pectus excavatum

M. Moossdorff*, B. Maesen, D.W. den Uijl, T. Lenderink, F.A.R. Franssen, Y.L.J. Vissers, E.R. de Loos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background Life-threatening arrhythmias have been reported in patients with severe pectus excavatum in absence of other cardiac abnormalities. Literature is scarce regarding diagnosis, cause and management of this problem, particularly regarding the question as to whether the placement of an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) is necessary.Case summary A 19-year-old male patient with severe pectus excavatum was scheduled for elective surgical correction. During forward bending for epidural catheter placement, syncope and ventricular fibrillation (VF) occurred resulting in cardiac arrest. After successful cardiopulmonary resuscitation, extensive analysis was performed and showed no cause for VF other than cardiac compression (particularly of the left atrium, right atrium, and ventricle to a lesser degree) due to severe pectus excavatum. Postponed correction by modified Ravitch was performed without ICD placement, with an uneventful post-operative recovery. Eighteen months after surgery, the patient remains well. Upon specific request, he did remember dizzy spells when tying shoelaces. He always considered this unremarkable.Discussion In severe pectus excavatum with cardiac compression, forward bending can decrease central venous return and cardiac output, causing hypotension, arrhythmia, and cardiac arrest. In absence of structural or electric abnormalities, cardiac compression by severe pectus excavatum was considered a reversible cause of VF and ICD placement unnecessary. Patients with cardiac compression due to severe pectus excavatum may report pre-existing postural symptoms upon specific request. When these postural symptoms are present, extreme and prolonged forward bending postures should be avoided.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberytab373
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Heart Journal - Case Reports
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


  • Case report
  • Pectus excavatum
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Ventricular fibrillation
  • Cardiac compression
  • Adolescent


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