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Mayo Clinic Health Library

Pectus carinatum

Updated: 10-16-2019

Overview

Pectus carinatum is an uncommon birth defect in which a child's breastbone protrudes outward abnormally. Sometimes the deformity isn't noticeable until after the adolescent growth spurt.

For most children and teens, the main issue with pectus carinatum is the way it looks. However, some will also have problems with shortness of breath, especially during exercise.

While surgical repair is an option for people with severe pectus carinatum, the use of a brace to help flatten the chest is the preferred treatment for children whose bones are still growing. The brace is worn up to 23 hours a day, and results can begin to be seen in just a few months.

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Symptoms

The main symptom of pectus carinatum is a breastbone that sticks out. Sometimes the deformity isn't noticeable until after the adolescent growth spurt. Some people will also have shortness of breath, especially during exercise.

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Diagnosis

Doctors usually can diagnose pectus carinatum by examining the chest. Imaging tests like CT scans can help determine the severity of the disorder.

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Treatment

Pectus carinatum can be treated with either a brace or surgery. If the child’s bones are still growing, a brace can help flatten the chest. The brace is worn up to 23 hours a day and symptoms usually begin improving in just a few months. For severe pectus carinatum, surgery can repair the defect.

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