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Having your child get diagnosed with pectus carinatum can be a frightening experience. The disease can take a toll on you and your child’s mental state. 

Bracing and other medical interventions can be used to remedy pectus carinatum. 

What is Pectus Carinatum?

Pectus carinatum (or pigeon chest) is a structural malformation of the chest wall in which the sternum or ribcage protrudes outwards. Pectus carinatum affects 1 in 1000 teens, and many noninvasive treatment options are available with early detection. 

What Are the Symptoms of Pectus Carinatum?

The breastbone pushing outward is typically the first symptom a person experiences. However, pectus carinatum symptoms evolve as a child develops and matures. Symptoms in infants can include:

  • Abnormal rapid breathing
  • A hollow chest depression

Other people may report these symptoms:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Chest pains
  • Fatigue
  • Asthma
  • Shortness of breath during physical exercises

What Are the Types of Pectus Carinatum?

There are two types of pectus carinatum:​

  1. Chondromanubrial prominence: It’s a more uncommon and complicated variant of the illness known as “Pouter pigeon breast” or pectus carinatum. The breastbone forms a Z-shape with the upper part protruding.
  2. Chondrogladiolar prominence: The most common type of pectus carinatum, also known as “chicken breast”, in which the breastbone’s central and bottom halves protrude.

What Causes Pectus Carinatum?

The precise cause of pectus carinatum is unknown. The cartilage connecting the ribs develops abnormally, which leads to pectus carinatum. Sometimes pectus carinatum happens after cardiac surgery.

The high percentage of patients with a family history of a chest wall defect or deformity–estimates range from 25 to 33%—suggests a genetic component.

Pectus carinatum can occur in people with conditions like Noonan and Marfan syndrome.

How Is Pectus Carinatum Diagnosed?

Normal diagnosis of pectus carinatum occurs throughout the teenage years when growth is accelerated. It can be noticed as early as age 10, peaking at 16 and 18 for both men and women, respectively.

Your child’s physician can diagnose pectus carinatum during a physical medical examination. Further CT scans can be taken to calculate the depth of the chest. The doctor can detect scoliosis and other bone abnormalities with x-rays, electrocardiograms, and echocardiograms.

How to Treat Pectus Carinatum

There are three treatment options for pectus carinatum, depending on the severity of the condition. These include: 

1. Non-surgical Correction

The first line of treatment is orthotic braces since they frequently yield satisfactory outcomes. Bracing can treat young children with flexible chests and can receive treatment for mild to moderate forms of pectus carinatum. 

Depending on the manufacturer and the degree of the chest wall protrusion, the braces are worn by the patient for between 14 and 24 hours every day, either under or over their clothing. As your child grows, it might need to be changed regularly. The brace gradually reshapes the chest wall by applying pressure to the projecting cartilage and breastbone.

Once the chest bones have fully developed, bracing is no longer as effective. Your child’s doctor might suggest a surgical procedure in this situation or if your child is unable to or refuses to adhere to the demanding bracing schedule.

2. Surgical Correction

A procedure known as the Ravitch can be used to repair pectus carinatum surgically. The chest wall is elevated during this invasive operation, and the distorted cartilage is removed after creating an incision in the front chest wall.

A metal bar is inserted through the incision and secured to the ribs using metal plates. The bar is left in the chest wall for six months to keep the proper shape. During this period, your child must avoid contact sports that could lead to a collision.

3. Cosmetic Concealment

Some adult patients who choose not to seek medical therapy for correction turn to bodybuilding to sculpt the muscles surrounding the protruding chest wall in a way that lessens its appearance.

Although this doesn’t change the deformity, it can boost confidence and self-esteem. Breast augmentation has also been done on female patients to change the morphological characteristics of the chest and conceal the pectus carinatum.

Together We Can Defeat Pectus Carinatum

Some children and teenagers have a rare chest wall malformation called pectus carinatum, which may be inherited. The breastbone protrudes outward rather than lying flat on the chest wall, which indicates abnormal chest wall development.

Using a chest brace, children with pectus carinatum have excellent prognoses. Braces can frequently be used to improve the sternum’s external appearance. Surgery may be required in some severe circumstances to fix the deformity.

Align Clinic has expert orthotists trained not only in pectus carinatum bracing but also are well aware of the psychological toll it can take on your child. They’ve vast experience helping hundreds of patients like your child in their journey to recovery from pectus carinatum.

Call us today to book an appointment with one of our doctors.


What Is a Pectus Carinatum Brace?

This is a lightweight tailor-made brace that surrounds the chest and applies pressure to the protruding front chest.

How Does a Pectus Carinatum Brace Work?

The Pectus Carinatum brace pushes the breastbone back to its proper place. 

How Long Do Kids Need to Wear the Brace?

While some children will require a brace for longer, most children wear them for six months to a year. They can typically take it off for activities like sports and showers, but they typically have to wear it for at least eight hours each day.

Are There Any Problems With Wearing a Brace?

The brace usually has no negative effects. Sometimes the skin beneath it can become a little inflamed and red. Usually, this fades away on its own.

How Can You Help Your Child With Wearing a Brace?

Most children adjust to wearing their brace well. Nonetheless, some kids find it difficult. Parents can work with their kids to come up with solutions. Children self-conscious about wearing the brace can cover it with a baggy shirt or limit its use to sleeping.