Chest Wall Deformities

Also known as: pectus excavatum (sunken chest, funnel chest), pectus carinatum (pigeon chest).

What are chest wall deformities?

Conditions that cause physical abnormalities of the chest are known as chest wall deformities. The most common are pectus excavatum (sunken chest or funnel chest) and pectus carinatum (pigeon chest). Pectus excavatum features a chest that is depressed, while with pectus carinatum, the chest protrudes outward. Combination deformities occur, where one side is depressed and the other protuberant. Some children also have scoliosis, as the boney abnormality of the thorax (chest wall) can be both anterior (in front) or posterior (in back).

What causes chest wall deformities?

The precise cause of chest wall deformities isn’t clear. There appears to be some genetic and hereditary component to the disease, although most cases are sporadic (not hereditary). About two thirds of patients have normal chests until puberty starts, and with the rapid growth spurt, then the abnormality becomes visible. The other third have the deformity noted in infancy or early childhood. Some patients have connective tissue abnormalities, like Marfan’s syndrome, whereby pectus deformities are a common component.

What are the symptoms of chest wall deformities?

Breathing difficulty, chest pain, recurrent lung infections, and palpitations are common symptoms of chest wall deformities. Often the children have no physical complaints, but are concerned instead about the appearance of their chest. They may become introverted and self-conscious, even depressed, about their appearance and the teasing they suffer at the expense of their peers.

What are chest wall deformities care options?

Many chest wall deformities do not require treatment. In moderate to severe instances, surgery can be used to correct the excavatum deformities. For most of the protrusion abnormalities, bracing is used, and no surgery is required at all. 

How can we help your child with a pectus deformity?

The surgeons at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital have over 3 decades of excellence in the treatment of pectus deformities. We have successfully treated over a thousand patients for pectus excavatum, pectus carinatum and combination abnormalities. We were early adopters of the Nuss minimally invasive repair for pectus excavatum, and are nationally and internationally renowned for our expertise. The surgeons can tailor operative and non-operative modalities for children and young adults who suffer from these conditions. For the protrusion anomalies, our expert orthotist, a physical therapist who has dedicated his career to treating children with pectus carinatum, is available to custom build a brace on site at our pectus clinic, made to order for your child.

Our Pectus Program Commitment:

Our team at Nicklaus Children's Hospital strives to give each child or young adult with a chest wall abnormality the best treatment possible, using all the newest technology.

We commit to customizing a path to normalizing the chest contour as quickly and as efficiently regardless of the specific anomaly. For operative repair, the pediatric surgeons work with the physical therapists, nurses and other physicians, including anesthesiologists and other pain team members, radiologists, geneticists and orthopedic surgeons, to make recovery as painless and efficient as possible. For non-operative treatments, our therapists and orthotist work with the surgeon for expeditious correction without the risks and discomfort of surgery. We recognize the trust you put in us as we care for your children.


Reviewed by: Cathy Anne Burnweit, MD

This page was last updated on: 3/29/2018 9:11:06 AM

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Remote controlled transport cars are used to provide a positive experience for young children who are being taken into surgery at Nicklaus Children's Hospital.