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How Dangerous Is Pectus Carinatum & Does It Spread?

Pectus carinatum marked by an abnormally outward protruding breastbone is only a postural deformity and perhaps a non-life-threatening condition.1,2

As it affects the shape of the chest, children will feel bad and unhappy with their body that typically impacts the child’s self-esteem and quality of life.3

Pectus carinatum is not a contagious disease and does not spread however one or both sides of the chest can be affected.4

How Dangerous Is Pectus Carinatum?

How Dangerous Is Pectus Carinatum?

The primary symptom of pectus carinatum is the protrusion of the chest. Although most of these deformities are present at the time of birth yet it is usually not noticed until adolescence when the malformation is noticed prominently. Other related complications are bone, muscle, and psychological problems.

Chest Related Complications Of Pectus Carinatum

Some patients with pectus carinatum experience chest-related complications that include:

Pain When The Anterior Chest Is Compressed- The sternum is a flat bone situated in the center of the anterior thoracic wall. The protrusion in the breastbone causes localized chest wall pain and tenderness when you do certain movements or only if pressure is applied to your chest wall.

Breathing Difficulty During Physical Activities- Most cases of pectus carinatum do not produce symptoms however severe cases can interfere with lung functions resulting in trouble breathing. Clinical studies have shown that this was noticed in one in 260 patients post-surgery for pectus carinatum.1,2

Bone And Muscle Complications

Pectus carinatum does not usually trigger any significant health challenges but some patients may encounter bone and muscle problems that include:

Abnormal Curvature Of The Spine – When the curve arches too far inward, the breastbone is pushed outward affecting the lower back and occasionally the neck.

Marfan Syndrome – An inherited disorder affecting the connectivity tissue that supports your organs and other structures in your body.3

Psychological Problems

Reduced Quality Of Life- Body image was highly disturbed in all the patients that are associated with both the reduced mental quality of life and low self-esteem.

But overall, the outlook for children with pectus carinatum looks impressive with the use of the brace.

Does Pectus Carinatum Spread?

The cause of the condition remains unknown. It does not spread through blood transmissions or sexual transfer. However clinical studies have demonstrated that pectus carinatum has a strong association with hereditary that is passed through generations and runs through families.

However, there are many cases where there is no family history of chest wall defects. The research scientists are investigating the role of genetics in the occurrence of pectus deformities. Some chest wall conditions occur as a result of certain conditions such as

Jeune’s Syndrome – a rare genetic condition of congenital dwarfism causing children to have a deformity of their chest wall.

Poland Syndrome- a birth defect characterized by an underdeveloped chest muscle in which affected individuals are born with missing or underdeveloped muscles on one side of the body.4

Pectus carinatum is a forward protrusion of the chest causing pain when the anterior chest is pressed. These patients may experience breathing difficulties during physical activities, fatigue, and chest pain. The condition produces a disturbed body image and reduced quality of life.

The severity of the deformity is diagnosed through a physical exam and treatment is recommended accordingly. Treatment options include wearing a brace to compress the chest and surgery to correct the deformity. However, this should be determined by your healthcare provider who will also analyze to see if any other symptoms are present.


  1. Winkens, Ron, et al. “Pectus Excavatum, Not Always as Harmless as It Seems.” BMJ Case Reports, BMJ Publishing Group, 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3029481
  2. “Pectus Carinatum; Symptoms, Causes, Management & Treatment. Everything You Should Know About Pectus Carinatum” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15790-pectus-carinatum.
  3. “Pectus Carinatum (Concept Id: C0158731) – MedGen – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/medgen/57643
  4. Kálmán, Attila. “Initial Results with Minimally Invasive Repair of Pectus Carinatum.” The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Mosby, 9 Mar. 2009, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022522309000142

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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:October 15, 2022

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