Pectus Excavatum

What is Pectus Excavatum?

Pectus Excavatum (funnel chest) is a birth defect that is characterized by a recessed breastbone. It can be mild and barely noticeable to severe, and it can worsen at puberty when grow spurts occur. In the most serious of cases it appears as if the middle of the chest was scooped away. The exact cause is unknown, but it can be hereditary and strikes more boys than girls.

It is thought to be a result of abnormal connective tissue growth. It can be found in conjunction with other conditions including Marfan syndrome, scoliosis and rickets. Funnel chest is usually a harmless condition. However, in the most serious cases it can push the heart into the left chest wall. It can also cause complications that require treatment.

What are the Symptoms of Pectus Excavatum?

The symptoms of pectus excavatum vary in severity from one person to the next, but it may include:

  • Lethargy
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Chest pain
  • Intolerance of physical activities
  • Fast heartbeat

How is Pectus Excavatum Treated?

After diagnosis through a physical exam, heart tests, lung tests and imaging, treatment may include minimally invasive surgery to elevate and support the breastbone. Although it comes with risks as any surgery does, the prognosis is good in regards to both health and physical appearance.

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