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What Are The First Symptoms Of Pectus Carinatum & How Do You Test For It?

One of the first symptoms of Pectus Carinatum is when the breastbone sticks out. In most instances, the problem is not visible until adolescence.1,2

Your healthcare provider will take the patient’s medical history and perform diagnosis through a physical examination by examining the chest.3

Imaging tests such as CT scan can also help diagnose the condition to determine the appearance of the pectus carinatum.4

What Are The First Symptoms Of Pectus Carinatum?

Pectus carinatum is often asymptomatic and does not produce any signs or symptoms. In some individuals, it is just an aesthetic issue occurring due to an asymmetrical chest. Doctors are still investigating the cause of the condition however clinical studies show pectus carinatum has a strong association with genetics. However, people with the below health condition have an increased chance of developing this deformity.

Some of the common symptoms of this condition include:

In some instances, people with pectus carinatum experience tenderness when ribs protrude and grow outward from the chest. Some patients may experience a rigid chest wall impacting respiration. Chest wall resection has been associated with significant morbidity with respiratory failure in 27% of cases. Pectus carinatum also causes heart arrhythmias, the heart feels like racing. In some occurrences, a heart murmur can be felt.

In rare cases, the deformity may be severe on one side and the person’s breastbone may sink into his/her chest on another side. This is called pectus excavatum, a malformation that can compromise lung and heart function. The condition worsens with a growth spurt and affects a greater number of boys when compared to girls.1,2

How Do You Test For Pectus Carinatum?

This unusual deformity has potential psychological impact and consequences when left untreated. A study was conducted on an adolescent Caucasian boy who showed protuberant sternum, a typical symptom of pectus carinatum. The condition of the boy continued to worsen, and his chest wall malformation was progressing which showed a high probability of distortion with a growth spurt.

The patients experienced symptoms of extreme tiredness and shortness of breath during physical exercises. The boy’s complication has become a real concern to his parents since his physical routine was severely disrupted. He was not able to lead a life similar to his peers and started isolating himself both from his family and friends and started showing signs of depression.3

So, the parents decided to seek medical intervention. The initial examination of his problem began with the chest x-ray. This is one of the most effective tests to determine anomalies in the chest. To further determine the complications, doctors typically recommend for electrocardiogram and echocardiogram.

However, in most serious cases, doctors will suggest for CT scan or magnetic resonance imaging. This test is highly crucial to determine the best treatment procedure to resolve the deformity. Also based on the test results, the doctor may identify other conditions such as scoliosis, congenital heart disease, and related syndromes.4

Pectus carinatum also called Keel’s chest is a deformity of the chest bone. Most conditions of pectus carinatum develop during childhood that causes the breastbone to push outward instead of being flush against the chest.

Researchers believe the possible cause of pectus carinatum is due to the overgrowth of rib bones. It doesn’t cause any significant problems, but some children experience serious health problems. However, the prognosis of this condition is excellent with the use of a brace.


  1. “Pectus Carinatum.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 16 Oct. 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pectus-carinatum/symptoms-causes/syc-20355531
  2. “Pectus Carinatum Causes, Symptoms and Treatment.” Braceworks Custom Orthotics, braceworks.ca/2016/11/26/devices/torso/pectus-carinatum/pectus-carinatum-causes-symptoms-and-treatment/
  3. “Pectus Carinatum: Diagnosis & Treatments: Boston Children’s Hospital.” Boston Childrens Hospital, www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/p/pectus-carinatum/testing-and-diagnosis
  4. “Pectus Carinatum – Conditions – GTR – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/gtr/conditions/C0158731/.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 28, 2021

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