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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.
When does pectus excavatum become apparent?
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.
How serious is it?
The level of severity goes from extremely mild and almost unnoticeable to severe, but the condition does tend to get worse during growth spurts.
What kinds of health problems does a pectus excavatum cause?
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 usually only with extreme exercise.
Also, approximately 15 percent of children who have pectus excavatum end up developing a condition called scoliosis (curvature of the spine).
What causes pectus excavatum?
We don't really know. Some studies investigating a genetic component are underway. Although the majority of cases don't involve a family history, there are many that do—enough to warrant the suspicion that genes may play a significant role.
If your child does develop scoliosis, the Spinal Program at Boston Children’s is one of the nation’s foremost pediatric treatment and research centers.
What are the symptoms of pectus excavatum?
It depends on when the condition is diagnosed.
In infancy, symptoms of pectus excavatum can include:
In older children, symptoms of pectus excavatum can include:
What is my child’s long-term outlook?
While most children with pectus excavatum don’t need any treatment at all, more severe cases can be surgically repaired, allowing your child to lead a normal, active life.
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”