Pectus Excavatum | Diagnosis & Treatment

How is pectus excavatum diagnosed?

Pectus excavatum is usually diagnosed during a physical examination. X-rays of the chest can be helpful, as well.

Other tests your child's doctor might recommend include:

What are the treatment options for pectus excavatum?

If your child has a mild case of pectus excavatum, there's probably no reason for surgery. A shallow excavatum is unlikely to affect the heart or lung functioning, and your child's appearance will remain normal.

If the deformity is causing physical or social problems, it can be surgically repaired. There are two surgical options, both of which require your child to be put under general anesthesia.


In this procedure, the surgeon makes an incision in your child's chest wall, removes the cartilage wedged between the ribs and breastbone and repositions the freed-up breastbone. A bar is left in the chest wall to maintain the correct shape for six months. During this time, your child will have to refrain from activities that might involve a collision, like football. The technique fixes the problem but leaves a scar visible on the chest.


In this procedure, the surgeon makes incisions on the side of your child's chest wall. The surgeon then inserts a bar laterally through the chest and moves the breastbone forward. No cartilage is removed, and scarring is less extensive.

The Nuss procedure doesn't remove any asymmetry in the way your child's chest looks. The bar has to stay in for at least one year, and sometimes two.

What are the benefits of repairing my child’s pectus excavatum?

While most children with pectus excavatum don’t need any treatment at all, more severe cases can be surgically repaired so that your child can lead a normal, active life.

In severe cases, repair of a pectus excavatum may help the function of the heart and lungs. But in most cases, the benefits are mostly psychological. For children who have been upset by their appearance, the surgery can make a big difference.