Video Game Tech Solves The Mystery Of The Sunken Chest

Pectus excavatum, better known as sunken chest, was once believed to a purely cosmetic abnormality. Why would patients suffering from a cosmetic problem complain of shortness of breath? A little applied video game technology solves the mystery.

Sunken chest is the most common congenital deformity. Occurring in one out of every 1000 children. It is characterised by an indentation of the breastbone, caused by abnormal growth of cartilage. It looks a little weird, but with the exception of severe cases, it's purely a cosmetic problem. Or is it?

Patients with pectus excavatum have often complained of shortness of breath or problems exercising, but traditional methods of measuring air flow were unable to detect a difference between patients with or without sunken chest.

Enter researchers at Virginia's Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters and Eastern Virginia Medical School. The team conducted a study of patients with and without pectus excavatum using a video game derived technology called optoelectronic plethysmography.

Optoelectronic plethysmography utilises tiny reflective markers scanned by a series of infrared cameras to create realistic animated figures. It's a method of motion capture, and in this case, it captured the motion of the subjects' chests as they breathed.

Each of the 119 research subjects, 64 of which suffered from sunken chest, were fitted with 89 reflective markers and made to breath. Pattern recognition software helped map the movement of the chest cavity.

The researchers discovered that chest movement decreased in patients with sunken chest closer to the deformity. These patients compensated by using more of their abdominal muscles to draw in air.

"We believe these findings may explain the complaints of shortness of breath and easy fatigability of patients with non-corrected pectus excavatum," said CHKD pediatric surgeon Robert Obermeyer, MD, an assistant professor at EVMS. "Essentially, these patients are working harder to get the same amount of breath."

The technology behind optoelectronic plethysmography was developed to capture the tiniest movements of motion capture actors, down to the facial expression.

So when it is finally scientifically proven that video games cause us to turn into homicidal maniacs, at least people with sunken chest can breathe easier knowing gaming technology helped them out.

Struggling for Breath: Videogame Technology Documents Abnormal Breathing Patterns in Patients With Sunken Chest [Science Daily]

Image via BTS Bioengineering


    Hey, I have one of those.

      Same here, i'm glad its common.

      Im short of breath a LOT of the time, even sitting down. I still excercise and play lots of sports though.

      I'm glad its common, holy crap. Thank you so much kotaku!

        I must be lucky, I never seem to be out of breath, but I'm glad its more common than I though. Considering I've never physically met someone else with it.

          I've got one too, I've noticed symptoms like this before and it seems logical that it would cause them. There's a surgical procedure they can do to basically break it outwards, might be doing that. Since it was thought to be cosmetic before, wasn't going to do it but now.

          Thanks Kotaku.

            I have one as well and getting it removed at the end of the year(Purely because a doctor recommended that I get it removed, not for cosmetic reasons.) Kinda backs up what I already know, the previous research basically said, it was impossible to tell if it did anything because people with this still fitted within the normal range for aerobic activity, good to see this clearing this up
            good to know that the technology making our video-games has some new applications which directly improve peoples well-being
            The surgical procedure isn't all that pleasant so its only worth it if its reasonably severe

    I'm rarely out of breath and thats after spending most of my development years, 15 to 30, smoking B&H Special Filter. Glad I quit though.

    Had to LOL at the optoelectronic plethysmography tag, it'll be nice to have all the Kotaku articles related to this easy to find.

    I was a little annoyed when, in year 8, my swimming instructor (who was actually just in year 10) told me to "gross, stop that. It looks like you've been hit by a truck. No, stop that."
    I went home a little down but then the next day I was in the change room and discovered about 4 people in my class had it too =)
    I went to see a doctor about it actually but they said there's nothing to worry about. If I am short of breath a lot, he said it's better to perform upper body exercises like push-ups or rowing instead of getting any surgery done.

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