Chest Wall Deformities in Children

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Chest wall deformities are fairly common structural deformities in the chest.

There are two basic kinds:

  • Funnel chest - a depression in the breastbone
    • occurs in about one out of 500 children
    • can cause breathing problems
  • Pigeon breast - the breastbone is pushed outward
    • occurs in about one out of 1,500 children
    • is much more common in boys
    • can cause scoliosis (curvature of the spine)

When is the best time to do the surgery for funnel chest?

Twenty-five years ago, surgeons operated when the child was as young as 4. The cartilage content of the bones made repositioning easier and healing was faster.

But too often, the condition would recur, especially during growth spurts.

So surgeons at Boston Children's Hospital's Department of Surgery surgeons prefer to operate, if they operate at all, during the child's teen years. By then, they're through most of their growth spurts so recurrence isn't as much of a problem.

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- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

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