What Is Pectus Carinatum?

Pectus carinatum, also called pigeon chest, is a protrusion of the breastbone, which has been described as giving the chest a bowed-out appearance similar to that of a bird. The protrusion may occur alone or in association with other genetic disorders or syndromes.

Children born with pectus carinatum usually develop normal hearts and lungs, but the abnormality may prevent these organs from functioning optimally. Researchers believe that pectus carinatum may prevent complete expiration of air from the child’s lungs, leading to lower stamina. In some children, pectus carinatum may also have a significant psychological impact on self-image and self-confidence, which disrupts normal social development.

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How Is Pectus Carinatum Diagnosed?

Pectus carinatum may be present at birth as a congenital abnormality, or it may be associated with other disorders, including Marfan syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that causes long limbs, curvature of the spine and chest abnormalities; Morquio syndrome, an inherited disease of metabolism; multiple lentigines syndrome, which involves brown skin spots called lentigines that are similar to freckles, abnormalities in the electrical signals that control the heartbeat, widely spaced eyes, short stature and hearing loss; or osteogenesis imperfecta, a group of genetic disorders that mainly affect the bones causing fractures with no apparent cause.

Pulmonary function testing can help determine the impact of the deformity on the heart and lungs. Your doctor may also recommend chromosome studies, echocardiogram, and x-rays to determine if pectus carinatum is associated with another disorder.

How Is Pectus Carinatum Treated?

Treatment depends on the severity of the disorder. Younger patients may benefit from orthotic bracing, which is generally the first line of therapy.

In older patients with fully developed and more rigid chest walls, surgery may be recommended to correct the deformity and improve heart and lung function.

There have been some reports of improved ability to exercise, increased stamina and improved lung perfusion scans after surgery.

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Pediatric General & Thoracic Surgery
6410 Fannin Street, Suite 950
Houston, Texas 77030
(832) 325-7234

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