Most conditions of pectus carinatum do not cause serious health problems but some children may experience shortness of breath, irregular heart rhythm, fatigue, pain, and respiratory problems.1,2
There is no cure for this condition, but therapy helps bring back the posture and improve your quality of life.3
Pectus carinatum is unlikely to get better by itself but in simple scenarios, physical activities and exercises can build muscles in the chest that can enhance the shape of the rib bone and cartilages.4
Is Pectus Carinatum A Serious Condition?
Pectus Carinatum is not a serious condition that is caused by abnormal protruding of the breastbone due to genetic conditions or other underlying syndromes. In most situations, the deformity is present at the time of birth or early childhood. However, pectus is typically diagnosed around 10-12 years of age during growth spurts.
For several patients, pectus carinatum is just a cosmetic complication and the abnormality frequently results in an asymmetrical chest. In severe anomalies, it can cause rigid chest wall leading to breathing difficulties, respiratory problems during strenuous workouts or physical activities, and recurrent asthma. When the respiration is affected, the individuals will require to use the accessory muscles instead of the normal muscles for easing the breathing.
This, in turn, impacts the gas exchange and eventually leads to exhaustion and fatigue. The cause of the condition is still under investigation, but several studies claim it may be due to hereditary reasons and runs in families. Also, it appears to be more common in males.1,2
Can Pectus Carinatum Be Reversed?
Pectus Carinatum is not a preventable condition but it can be treated through exercise. But exercise doesn’t seem easy as you expect because strenuous activities and exercises can cause trouble breathing, chest pain, and reduced tolerance level.
According to Schwabegger, Anton H. (Ed.) author of Congenital Thoracic Wall Deformities, the condition affects a small number of patients who suffer from emotional problems rather than functional impairment. Apart from surgical options, non-surgical options are also available to treat this condition but there are limitations.3
Non-surgical options include bracing or physical therapy (exercises) but this is based on your child’s health condition. Your doctor determines the suitable therapy based on evaluation and diagnostic test results. Exercises include deep breathing and breath-holding exercises to get enough exercises for back and chest muscles.
These exercises should be done by exerting your body and instead, your full focus should be on breathing. When your lungs get enough oxygen to the body you will feel more relaxed and better. Not all patients require surgical options however when the condition is severe and doesn’t get better through other therapies, surgery is the most effective method to remove abnormal cartilage and place the sternum in the appropriate position.4
A chest wall abnormality is a structural deformity of the chest in which the anterior portion of the chest protrudes forward. This happens when the ribs grow unevenly, though not clear why this happens. But it worsens during adolescence at the time of growth spurts. Pectus doesn’t produce any symptoms however most patients undergo surgery for cosmetic reasons.
But in some cases, the deformity can produce serious health conditions. The condition that is left untreated in childhood needs to be treated when the individual grows because it leads to compression of the lungs and heart.
- “Pectus Carinatum.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 16 Oct. 2019, Is Pectus Carinatum A Serious Condition? https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pectus-excavatum/symptoms-causes/syc-20355483
- Winkens, Ron, et al. “Pectus Excavatum, Not Always as Harmless as It Seems. Pectus excavatum may become symptomatic with increasing age” BMJ Case Reports, BMJ Publishing Group, 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3029481/
- “Pectus Excavatum: Symptoms, Tests, Management and Treatment. it can be corrected with minimally invasive or traditional open surgeries” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17328-pectus-excavatum
- “Pectus Carinatum (Pigeon Chest): Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, Exercises to Treat Pectus Excavatum and Improve Strength, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320836#takeaway