Pectus carinatum is a condition in which the sternum (breastbone) protrudes, or sticks out, more than usual. It is the opposite of pectus excavatum, in which the breastbone is depressed inward and gives the chest a sunken appearance.
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).
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 that has the following symptoms:
Symptoms may be more severe for some patients than for others, and may include any of the following:
The doctor will take the patient’s medical history and perform 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).
If pectus carinatum is causing symptoms, there are two treatment options: bracing and surgery.
Bracing treatment for pectus carinatum is very safe. A small number of patients may have irritation or breakdown of the skin where the brace makes contact. Patients are taught to stop using the brace at the first sign of any irritation. They are then asked to return to the office so that the brace can be adjusted.
The surgical repair of pectus carinatum, like other extensive surgeries, carries certain risks. While the Ravitch procedure is also safe and effective, complications can occur, including:
The outlook for patients who have pectus carinatum is generally very good. Patients who wear a brace or have the surgery are usually very satisfied with the results and with their appearance.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 01/21/2019