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.

What happens during the procedure?
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?
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?
We usually recommend bracing as the child enters puberty.  If we brace too early, there may be recurrence as the adolescent goes through the growth spurt.  Complete correction may be as short as two months or as long as eight.  Very rarely do we need a year to attain a normal contour and this usually occurs in young adults in their late teens and twenties.  Once correction is achieved, the brace is for a period of time still worn at night (like a retainer in orthodontia) to keep the abnormality from recurring.

Reviewed by: Cathy Anne Burnweit, MD

This page was last updated on: 8/13/2018 12:04:32 PM

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