What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Pectus Carinatum?
A pushed-out chest is the chief sign of pectus carinatum. This usually doesn't
appear until a child is age 11 or older, even though the condition is present at birth.
The chest wall surrounds and protects the heart
and lungs. So kids and teens
with pectus carinatum may:
feel short of breath, especially during exercise
have a fast heartbeat
have chest pain
Some can develop asthma
or get a lot of respiratory infections.
Pectus carinatum can affect one side of the chest more than the other. Sometimes,
kids have pectus carinatum on one side of the chest, and a different chest wall disorder
— pectus excavatum —
on the other side. Pectus excavatum makes the chest look sunken.
The condition gets worse as kids grow, and affects boys more often than girls.
How Is Pectus Carinatum Diagnosed?
Health care providers diagnose pectus carinatum based on an exam and a child's
. If needed, they might also order tests such as:
Kids and teens with mild pectus carinatum might not have breathing problems or
worry about their appearance. If so, they don't need treatment.
Kids whose bones are still growing can wear a chest
brace. Much like how braces
realign teeth, a chest brace will push the breastbone back to a normal position. Kids
need to wear a brace for 6 months to a year. They can remove it for sports, showering,
and other activities, but usually must wear it for 8 hours a day or longer.
In some cases, surgery can treat pectus carinatum. In the Ravitch
procedure, a surgeon:
removes damaged cartilage
repairs or reshapes the sternum
places a bar (or bars) in the chest wall to hold it in the proper position
The surgeon removes the bar in a later surgery, usually after about 6 months. The
Ravitch procedure is most often used for patients 13 to 22 years old.
Doctors also might recommend physical
therapy and exercises to strengthen weak chest muscles.
Mild pectus carinatum won't need treatment if doesn't affect how the lungs or heart
work. But when the condition is very noticeable or causes health problems, a person's
self-image can suffer.
In those cases, treatment can improve a child's physical and emotional well-being.
Most kids and teens who wear a brace or undergo surgery do very well and are happy
with the results.