Pectus excavatum describes an abnormal formation of the rib cage that gives the chest a caved-in or sunken appearance.
Pectus excavatum is a congenital (present at birth) abnormality that can be mild or severe.
It is caused by too much growth of the connective tissue that joins the ribs to the breastbone. This causes the sternum to malform inward. The child typically has a depression in the center of the chest over the sternum, and this may appear quite deep.
If pectus excavatum is severe, it may affect the heart and lungs, making exercise difficult. Also, the appearance of the chest may cause psychological difficulty for the child.
Pectus excavatum may occur as the only abnormality, or together with other syndromes.
Pectus excavatum will often occur by itself without any family history or other defects or problems. Other causes include:
Contact your health care provider if:
Your health care provider perform a physical examination. An infant with pectus excavatum may have other symptoms and signs that, when taken together, define a specific syndrome or condition.
The health care provider will also ask questions about you or your child's medical history, such as:
Tests may be done to rule out suspected disorders. These tests may include:
Pulmonary or cardiac function tests may be done to determine how severely the lungs and heart are affected.
This condition can be surgically repaired. Surgery is generally advised if you have other problems, such as trouble exercising. In addition, some people undergo surgery for cosmetic reasons. Your health care provider can help you make decisions about your therapy.