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A to Z: Pectus Carinatum

May also be called: Pigeon Breast; Pigeon Chest

Pectus carinatum (PEK-tus kair-ih-NOT-um) is a deformity of the chest. Abnormal growth of rib and breastbone (sternum) cartilage causes the breastbone to bulge out. This can give the chest a birdlike appearance.

More to Know

Pectus carinatum usually doesn’t appear until about age 11 or older, and gets worse as kids grow. It’s more common in males.

It may affect one side of the chest more than the other. Some kids have pectus carinatum on one side of the chest, and an indentation called pectus excavatum on the other side. Pectus carinatum can be associated with scoliosis or congenital heart problems. Pectus carinatum is also seen with Marfan syndrome and other genetic disorders.

Kids and teens with pectus carinatum may have trouble breathing (especially during exercise), asthma, and frequent respiratory infections.

Keep in Mind

Pectus carinatum can be harmless if it’s not affecting how the lungs or heart work. But it can cause someone to have a poor self-image.

The condition may be treated by wearing a brace. Sometimes surgery is done. But kids with mild forms of pectus carinatum — who aren’t bothered by their appearance and don’t have breathing problems — don’t need treatment.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.