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Pectus Excavatum

Pectus excavatum is when the ribs and the breastbone (sternum) grow inward and form a dent in the chest.

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 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.

pectus excavatum

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.

What causes Pectus Excavatum?

​While the exact cause of pectus excavatum is currently unknown, the condition is hypothesized to be heredity as it often runs in families.

How to treat Pectus Excavatum?

Pectus excavatum can be treated surgically. The primary goal of surgery for pectus excavatum is to correct the chest deformity to improve a patient’s breathing and cardiac function. Repositioning the sternum to a more normal, outward position lessens pressure on the heart and lungs, allowing them to function more normally. The appearance of the chest is also dramatically improved, addressing any psychological symptoms that may also be present.


Pectus excavatum can be corrected with the minimally invasive surgical technique called the Nuss procedure.

  • The Nuss procedure: After a tiny camera is inserted into the chest to guide the procedure, two small incisions are made on either side of the chest, and a curved steel bar is inserted under the sternum. Individually curved for each patient, the steel bar is used to correct the depression and is secured to the chest wall on each side. The bar is left in place for 3 years and later removed as an outpatient procedure. The best results can be achieved when the procedure is performed for patients going through their growth spurt at puberty. However, many adults have also benefitted from the pectus excavatum repair surgery.

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