Find best premium and Free Joomla templates at

Editorial - Donald Nuss

editorial photoRobert E. Kelly, MD, FACS, FAAP
Vice President for Surgical Affairs

Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters
Norfolk, Virginia, USA



In the late 1990’s Dr. Donald Nuss, a pediatric surgeon at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters (CHKD), developed a new method to correct pectus excavatum, the most common deformity of the chest wall. Before his 1997 APSA presentation of this innovative technique, now known as the Nuss Procedure, surgeons had few options for their patients with this condition. One possibility was surgery that required a midline incision, costal cartilage resection and sternal fracture — the other was living with a deformity that limited their cardiovascular function and self-esteem.

Today, thanks to the creativity, scholarship and generosity of Dr. Nuss, families have the option of the minimally invasive Nuss Procedure, which gradually reshapes the chest wall with a metal bar placed under the sternum. His innovation, which is now standard practice throughout the world, has advanced the understanding and treatment of pediatric chest wall deformities, inspired research into the causes and effects of pectus excavatum and fostered the development of countless other minimally-invasive techniques in pediatric surgery.

Dr. Nuss is a tireless ambassador for surgical ingenuity and a compassionate advocate for young people who suffer from chest wall deformities. A native of South Africa and a graduate of the University of Cape Town, he completed his general surgical residency at the Mayo Clinic and returned to Cape Town to complete his fellowship in pediatric surgery at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. Dr. Nuss, who is white, practiced at a black hospital in Durban during Apartheid, until riots and political instability made remaining in his home county unsafe.

He came to Norfolk, Virginia, in 1977, where he was instrumental in the growth of the state’s only freestanding pediatric hospital, Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters. At CHKD, Dr. Nuss initiated the development of a pediatric surgery program and served as the hospital’s surgeon-in-chief and vice president for surgical affairs for 20 years. During his tenure, the annual volume of surgical patients increased from 2,200 to more than 11,000.

Dr. Nuss has been a guest lecturer and visiting professor at major medical centers in North and South American, Europe, Asia and Africa. And, 19 years after its first presentation, the Nuss Procedure still stands as one of the most significant developments in technical pediatric surgery since the Pena Procedure.

Scientists and physicians are often honored for theoretical achievements, but an even more notable result of Donald Nuss’ accomplishments are the tangible improvements they have made in the lives of countless young people. As a long-time colleague of Dr. Nuss, I have had the privilege of observing this firsthand … in grateful letters that describe the athletic feats of teenagers who used to sit on the sidelines … in photos of confident young women in prom dresses and bare-chested surfers on the beach. Just a generation ago, many of these patients would have chosen to live with their deformities rather than undergo complex surgical correction — a choice that many of their own parents made, since pectus excavatum often runs in families.

In the early days of the Nuss Procedure, parents would travel great distances so that their children could have surgery with Dr. Nuss. Today, thanks to broad adoption of the Nuss Procedure as the standard of care for pectus excavatum, most children can have this procedure close to home.

Although retired from practice at CHKD, Donald Nuss continues to travel throughout the world teaching and collaborating on his minimally invasive technique. His work and travel have fostered the international exchange of knowledge and data and inspired new treatments for pectus carinatum and other challenging chest wall deformities. His devotion to his patients, encouragement of others and contributions to the field of chest wall surgery make him an individual I am proud to call both friend and colleague.