(650) 375-2231

Call our main office


8:30 AM-5:30 PM

Pectus carinatum, better known as “pigeon chest” is a rare deformity that occurs in around one in 1,500 births. Males are more commonly affected by pigeon chest than females. Early symptoms vary from case to case and the cause of it is unknown, although it is linked with other diseases.

Although the treating pigeon chest is not so easy, many parents find themselves in confusion once they find out that their child is suffering from it. In order to demystify the illness, we’re going to explain what pectus carinatum actually is, the early signs of it, and the best treatments. 

What is Pectus Carinatum and What Causes It?

In order to help you understand pectus carinatum, we need to discuss what it actually is. This is a genetic disorder that affects the child’s chest wall. The disorder causes a sudden growth spurt of the breastbone cartilage. This makes the chest visibly stick out a few inches.

Once the cartilage grows to a certain size it creates a bulge on your child’s chest. The bulging chest has what many would describe as a “birdlike appearance,” which is why many people refer to the disorder as pigeon chest.  And what causes this disorder?

The truth is that doctors don’t actually know what causes pectus carinatum. In some cases, the disorder runs in the family. However, there are many cases in which both parents suffered from the disorder when they were children but their offspring didn’t have any similar problems.

But the deformity is related to other health conditions. Children who suffer from the following conditions have a bigger chance of developing pigeon chest at some point in their life:

  • Genetic disorders like down syndrome and Edwards syndrome                                          
  • Bone-related conditions such as brittle bone disease
  • Unusual growth spurts and conditions like Marfan syndrome

What are the Early Signs of Pectus Carinatum?

Of course, the most obvious sign of pectus carinatum is clearly visible. If your child’s chest is jutting out, that’s a strong sign that your child suffers from pigeon chest. Most children don’t develop any signs of the condition before the age of 11 even though the disease is present at birth.  

That means the earliest signs of the condition are not visible to the naked eye. That’s why you need to pay a little more attention to your child during physical activities. The chest wall is there to protect our hearts and lungs, which means that children who suffer from pigeon chest may experience:

  • Lack of breath during low-impact physical activities
  • Extremely strong and fast heartbeat on a daily basis
  • Feeling tired all day long even they’re physically inactive

​Of course, the symptoms above are not a reason for panicking and may be an indication of a number of different conditions. But it’s better to be safe than sorry and if you notice multiple symptoms at once, you should go and visit a specialist.

What is the Best Pectus Carinatum Treatment?

The treatment of your child depends on the stage of the illness. When discovered in time, it can be treated with a pectus brace. However, in later stages, surgery is the only way of correcting the damage caused by the illness. Let’s talk about different treatments in more detail.

1. ​Pectus Carinatum Brace

In the early stages, the easiest way of treating pigeon chest is with bracing. How does a pectus carinatum brace work? It works similarly to teeth braces. Just like mouth braces realign your teeth by pushing them back into place, a pectus brace does the same with the chest bones.

Many parents worry that a chest brace would have a huge impact on their child’s life. However, most cases require a child to wear a brace 8 hours a day for no more than 6 months. During that period, the child can take part in many normal activities, including playing sports, without the brace.

2. Pectus Carinatum Surgery

When the chest deformity progresses quickly or when the patient experiences high levels of pain, surgery is a better solution. By definition, pectus carinatum surgery falls into the category of “reconstructive surgery.” The procedure involves a technique known as the Ravitch procedure.

In this procedure, the surgeon makes an incision in the middle of the patient’s chest. Then, they remove the front cartilage and place steel struts inside the chest wall. The struts are left there to elevate the breastbone and once the patient is healed, they are removed during an additional surgery.

3. Post-surgery Home Treatment

If the child does need surgery, will you need to provide any special home care once the procedure is done? While there’s no special treatment for the child once the doctor is finished with the operation, here are a couple of things parents need to pay attention to:

  • The child needs to wait at least fivedays after the surgery to take a shower or a bath
  • When the child is dressed, the tape stripes around the incision should be kept in place
  • The stitching shouldn’t be touched and if redness appears around it, visit the doctor
  • Children that have struts placed in their chest need to visit the doctor every month 

Even after surgery, the child may continue to lead a normal life. For instance, as soon as your doctor determines it is safe, the child may get back to their sports activities.

Help Your Child Get Rid of Pectus Carinatum Now

When not treated correctly, pectus carinatum can become a serious condition. The sooner you discover the condition and take your child to see a professional, the better. Even if you suspect your child is starting to develop pectus carinatum, you should go for a checkup.
These are the things you need to keep in mind:

  • Pigeon chest can be connected with other illnesses
  • When discovered ion time, pigeon chest can be treated easily
  • Most cases can be treated with a pectus brace

​If you want to know more about pectus carinatum or if you suspect that your child is showing early signs of the condition, get in touch with our Wisconsin office right away and schedule a meeting.