Pectus carinatum

By Medically reviewed by Hello Doktor Medical Panel


What is pectus carinatum?

Pectus carinatum is an uncommon birth defect in which a child’s breastbone protrudes outward abnormally. Sometimes the deformity isn’t noticeable until after the adolescent growth spurt.

For most children and teens, the main issue with pectus carinatum is the way it looks. However, some will also have problems with shortness of breath, especially during exercise.

While surgical repair is an option for people with severe pectus carinatum, the use of a brace to help flatten the chest is the preferred treatment for children whose bones are still growing. The brace is worn up to 23 hours a day, and results can begin to be seen in just a few months.

How common is pectus carinatum?

Pectus carinatum is more common in boys. Although babies are born with the condition, it is often not noticed until the child reaches puberty (teen years). Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of pectus carinatum?

The common symptoms of pectus carinatum are:

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes pectus carinatum?

Although the exact causes of pectus carinatum are not known, it is believed to be a disorder of the cartilage that joins the ribs to the breastbone.

Pectus carinatum can sometimes be heredity (runs in the family). In some patients, pectus carinatum may be associated with Marfan syndrome, a connective tissue disorder recognized by: long limbs and fingers; chest abnormalities; curvature of the spine; certain facial features; specific changes in the heart valves and aorta; and, displacement (movement) of the lenses of the eyes.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for pectus carinatum?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is pectus carinatum diagnosed?

Your doctor will take a history and do a physical examination. The main test for diagnosing pectus carinatum is a chest X-ray from the front and side. In certain cases, the patient may have a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

In addition, patients who have heart palpitations may have an electrocardiogram (EKG) or an echocardiogram (a picture of the heart). The doctor may also check to see if the patient has scoliosis (curvature of the spine).

How is pectus carinatum treated?

If the condition is causing symptoms, there are two treatment options: bracing and surgery.

Bracing for pectus carinatum works similar to the way braces work on teeth. The brace is worn around the chest and provides pressure from both the front and back to move the breastbone back to its usual position. The child wears the brace for a minimum of eight hours per day, sometimes longer, for at least six months. The brace can be removed for showering, sports, and other activities.

Surgical correction for pectus carinatum involves a technique called the Ravitch Procedure. This procedure is completed with an incision (cut) in the mid-chest area to remove anterior (in the front) cartilage. Stainless-steel struts are placed across the anterior chest to support the breastbone and are wired to the appropriate ribs on each side, allowing the breastbone to be elevated. The struts are not visible from the outside and are removed later during a surgical procedure.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage pectus carinatum?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Review Date: September 11, 2017 | Last Modified: December 6, 2019

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