What is pectus excavatum?

Pectus excavatum is an abnormal development of the rib cage in which the sternum (breastbone) grows inward, resulting in a noticeable and sometimes severe indentation of the chest wall. Also known as “sunken chest” or “funnel chest,” pectus excavatum can be corrected with the minimally invasive surgical technique called the Nuss procedure or with traditional open surgery, known as the Ravitch procedure. Pectus excavatum occurs in both children and adults but is most commonly noticed in the early teen years. Adults have often been aware of their pectus for many years before seeking treatment.

What are the symptoms of pectus excavatum?

Due to the pectus, patients may have less space in the chest, which can limit heart and lung function. The symptoms can be both physical and psychological. Physical symptoms can include:

  • Shortness of breath with exercise.
  • Decreased stamina compared to peers.
  • Fatigue.
  • Chest pain.
  • Irregular heartbeat.

Psychological symptoms can include:

  • Significant embarrassment from the appearance of the chest.
  • Self-esteem issues.
  • Clinical depression.

Who should seek treatment?

Pectus excavatum is a fairly common congenital (there at birth) deformity. It occurs more often in men than women. Patients should seek treatment if they are having physical symptoms and/or psychological symptoms from their pectus.

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