Pectus Carinatum

What is Pectus Carinatum?

Pectus Carinatum is characterized by a protruding sternum. It is a rare birth defect that affects more males than females, and the exact cause is not clear. It is thought to be caused by a cartilage disorder, and it can be genetic. It has also been linked to the connective tissue disorder known as Marfan syndrome.

Pectus carinatum can become more apparent at puberty, but in most cases it is merely cosmetic. Kids can be very self-conscious, and they want to look like their friends. However, for some pectus carinatum affects more than just appearance. It can cause complications that may require treatment.

What are the Symptoms of Pectus Carinatum?

The symptoms of pectus carinatum vary from one person to the next. When complications occur they may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Lethargy
  • Fast heartbeat

How is Pectus Carinatum Treated?

Pectus carinatum is usually diagnosed through x-rays, and in some cases it also requires a CT scan or an MRI. Those with symptoms may also have to undergo an echocardiogram and/or an electrocardiogram. Treatment options may include bracing for at least eight hours each day and/or surgery to correct the protrusion.  Bracing is usually tried first when a child is still growing. Pectus carinatum surgery involves the removal of abnormal cartilage and repositioning of the sternum.

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Last Reviewed:
October 07, 2016
Last Updated:
August 24, 2017