Chest Bracing Therapy

Also known as: pectus carinatum treatment, pigeon chest treatment, chest bracing, external sternum bracing, external brace therapy.

What is chest bracing therapy?

Chest bracing therapy is a treatment used in children with mild or moderate pigeon chest, also called pectus carinatum. This is a condition where the breast bone (sternum) protrudes, either symmetrically or asymmetrically.  This therapy involves using an external brace to reshape the chest into a more conventional contour, much in the same way orthodontia remodels the tooth sockets to hold the teeth straight.

Pectus Carinatum patient before and after therapy
Protruding chest before and after chest bracing therapy.

What happens during chest bracing therapy?

After photographs and measurements are completed, the child and family will work closely with a doctor and an orthotist for custom fitting of a brace for the particular condition in the chest. The brace has cushioned plates that cover the chest and the back. The plates are connected with an aluminum bar and can be tightened to put pressure on the bowed out chest.

Over time, the brace remodels the abnormal bones into a more normal contour.

Is any special preparation needed?

A number of tests and evaluation will be performed to determine if the child is a good candidate for chest bracing therapy.

What are the risk factors of chest bracing therapy?

The brace is effective and safe when used properly and there are very few complications to this kind of treatment.  Initially there is some discomfort, which the doctor will treat. Occasionally, chafing and other skin irritation may occur in the process chest bracing therapy.

How long will the remodeling of the bone take?

It is usually recommended to begin bracing as the child enters puberty.  If we bracing is begun too early, there may be recurrence as the adolescent goes through growth spurts. Complete correction of pigeon chest may be as short as two months or as long as eight months.

In some rare cases, as long as one year might be needed to attain a normal contour and this usually occurs in young adults in their late teens and twenties.

Once correction of the protruding bones is achieved, the brace is still worn at night for a period of time (like a retainer in orthodontia) to keep the abnormality from recurring.

Florida's Leader in the Treatment of Chest Wall Deformities

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 01:57 PM