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A to Z: Pectus Excavatum

A to Z: Pectus Excavatum

May also be called: Funnel Chest; Sunken Chest

Pectus excavatum (PEK-tus eks-kuh-VAY-tum) is a deformity of the chest wall that causes several ribs and the breastbone (sternum) to grow abnormally, giving the chest a concave, or caved-in, appearance.

More to Know

The chest wall is made up of bones, muscle, and other tissue. It surrounds and protects the heart and lungs. The ribs and sternum usually go outward at the front of the chest. With pectus excavatum, the tissue, ribs, and sternum grows abnormally, causing the sternum to go inward to form a depression in the chest.

Pectus excavatum is a genetic disorder that is present from birth, though it may not be apparent for the first few years (or sometimes even until the teenage years). Mild cases of pectus excavatum might be barely noticeable. Severe cases can result in a deep hollow in the chest and may affect the heart and lungs. The visual appearance of pectus excavatum can sometimes contribute to psychological difficulties as well.

Keep in Mind

Pectus excavatum can be completely harmless if it’s not affecting the function of the lungs or heart. But it can cause people to have a poor self-image. Surgery often can correct the condition and treat any heart or lung issues. Physiotherapy and exercises to strengthen muscles are also helpful.

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