Pectus Excavatum

What is a pectus excavatum?

Pectus excavatum is a deformity of your child's chest wall. The breastbone, or sternum, and some of the ribs grow abnormally, causing a depression in the middle of the chest. The condition is not always noticed at birth, but is often apparent by the time a child is 2 to 3. In some cases, the condition only appears as your child grows.

The level of severity ranges from extremely mild and almost unnoticeable to severe, but the condition does tend to get worse during growth spurts. While many children with pectus excavatum don’t require any treatment at all, because their condition is so mild, a more severe case can press on the heart and lungs. However, these effects on the heart and lungs are usually minor and typically only occur with extreme exercise.

Also, approximately 15 percent of children who have pectus excavatum end up developing a condition called scoliosis (curvature of the spine).

How we care for pectus excavatum

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.

Our surgeons prefer to operate on children with pectus excavatum — if they operate at all — during the child's teen years. By then, they're through most of their growth spurts so recurrence is far less likely.