Pectus Carinatum

Also known as: protruding chest, pigeon chest, chest protrusion, protruding sternum

What is Pectus Carinatum?

Pectus carinatum, also known as pigeon chest, is a chest wall deformity in which the sternum (breastbone) and ribs protrude. Other names are chest protrusion, protruding chest or protruding sternum. The condition may be caused by excessive growth of cartilage. Pectus carinatum can be present at birth, although it can also occur during adolescence, emerging suddenly during the growth spurt at puberty. The condition can be associated with certain genetic disorders or syndromes, and sometimes arises following open heart surgeries in which the sternum is split.

Causes of Pectus Carinatum

Evaluation of Patients with Pectus Carinatum

Pretreatment assessment of pectus carinatum in children may include physician evaluation, photos and measurements of the chest wall.

Non-surgical Treatment of Protruding Chest

Chest bracing therapy is a nonsurgical method to treat pectus carinatum that utilizes a customized chest-wall brace, custom built for the specifics of each patient, to reduce the chest protrusion over time. The brace is worn under clothing and, in combination with an exercise program, may completely correct the problem. The duration of bracing depends on the type and severity of the protrusion, but most defects typically respond well with six to eight months of treatment.

Pediatric patient before and after treatment of pectus carinatum
Pectus Carinatum before and after treatment photo.

Surgical Treatment for Protruding Chest

Surgery may be suggested for for some patients with moderate to severe pectus carinatum, as well as those who cannot tolerate bracing.

The Ravitch technique developed in the 1940s, is similar to the procedure developed for pectus excavatum and involves opening the chest wall. With this technique, small sections of rib cartilage are removed. The sternum is then flattened, with correction noted immediately after surgery. This type of surgery is often used with severe asymmetrical chest wall deformities, where one side is protuberant and the other is depressed. The operation takes several hours and usually results in a stay in the hospital lasting a few days.

Florida's Leader in the Treatment of Chest Wall Deformities in Children and Teens

The Chest Wall Deformity Center of Excellence at Nicklaus Children's Hospital is the only facility in Florida to offer an FDA-approved bracing treatment for pectus carinatum in addition to comprehensive surgical options for children and teens.

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Reviewed by: Cathy Anne Burnweit, MD

This page was last updated on: October 01, 2019 01:56 PM