Conditions + Treatments

Pectus Carinatum in Children

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Pectus carinatum is primarily a cosmetic concern. Mild cases may not need any treatment at all, while moderate-to-severe cases can be treated effectively by bracing or surgery". -Jay M. Wilson, MD, senior associate in Boston Children's Hospital's Department of Surgery

Jay M. Wilson, MD, senior associate in Boston Children's Hospital's Department of Surgery

Here are some of the basics about pectus carinatum, also known as "pigeon breast": 

  • It is a deformity of your child's chest wall where the breastbone is pushed outward. 
  • It occurs in approximately 1 out of 1,500 children.
  • It’s not a life-threatening condition and treatment is typically straightforward, so your child should grow up to lead a normal, active life.
  • It occurs more frequently in boys than girls.
  • It is usually not noted until after the 11th birthday.
  • A mild deformity noted at birth or in early childhood often worsens as the child grows, particularly when the child reaches puberty.
  • Approximately 15 percent of children with pectus carinatum end up developing curvature of the spine (scoliosis).
  • There haven’t been any reports of children with pectus carinatum having heart or breathing problems related to the condition.

How Boston Children’s Hospital approaches pectus carinatum

For mild cases of pectus carinatum, there’s really no reason to do anything to try to fix it.

If your child’s condition is a bit more severe, we often treat him with a customized brace that gradually reshapes the chest. In rare cases, your child’s doctor may recommend surgery. Boston Children’s General Surgery Program evaluates and treats infants, children and young adults using state-of-the-art operative methods to improve the quality of life for each child entrusted to our care.

Boston Children’s is so much more than a hospital—it’s a community of researchers, clinicians, administrators, support staff, innovators, teachers, patients and families, all working together to make the impossible possible. ”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital
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