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A to Z: Pectus Excavatum

May also be called: Funnel Chest; Sunken Chest

Pectus excavatum (PEK-tus eks-kuh-VAY-tum) is a deformity of the chest wall that causes several ribs and the breastbone (sternum) to grow abnormally, giving the chest a concave, or caved-in, appearance.

More to Know

The chest wall is made up of bones, as well as muscle and other tissue. It surrounds and protects the heart and lungs. The ribs and sternum usually go outward at the front of the chest. With pectus excavatum, the tissue, ribs, and sternum grows abnormally, causing the sternum to go inward to form a depression in the chest.

Pectus excavatum is a genetic disorder that is present at birth, though it may not be apparent for the first few years (or sometimes even until the teenage years). Mild cases might be barely noticeable. Severe cases can cause a deep hollow in the chest and may affect the heart and lungs. The visual appearance of pectus excavatum can sometimes contribute to psychological difficulties.

Keep in Mind

Pectus excavatum can be completely harmless if it's not affecting how the lungs or heart work. But it can cause someone to have a poor self-image. Surgery often can correct the condition and treat any heart or lung issues. Physiotherapy and exercises to strengthen muscles are also helpful.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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