A chest deformity is a structural condition that happens when the cartilage connecting the ribs grows unevenly. The pediatric surgeons with Norton Children’s Surgery, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, are experienced and have extensive medical training to treat chest deformities in children.
A chest deformity often is noticeable by the time a child is age 2 but may be identified at birth. Some children may experience little or no symptoms, while others may experience breathing issues, including asthma or recurring respiratory infections. Children with a chest deformity may be at an increased risk for developing scoliosis.
Our pediatric surgeons consult with physicians across the Norton Children’s specialty system, including pediatric radiologists, cardiologists, pulmonologists and more, to evaluate, diagnose and treat chest wall deformities, including pectus excavatum and pectus carinatum.
Types of Chest Deformities
Also called funnel chest, concave chest or sunken chest, this is one of the two most common chest deformities. Several ribs and the breastbone can grow abnormally, making the chest appear caved in or sunken in. Pectus excavatum occurs in about 1 in 500 children. The condition can affect lung capacity if severe, causing fatigue, shortness of breath and a fast heartbeat.
Sometimes this is referred to as pigeon chest or raised chest and is the second most common chest deformity. The breastbone and ribs are pushed outward. Usually, one side of the chest is more affected than the other. Pectus carinatum occurs in about 1 in 1,500 children. Some children can have pectus carinatum on one side of the chest and pectus excavatum on the other side.
This rare congenital disorder, also called asphyxiating thoracic dystrophy, occurs when a child is born with a small chest and rib cage. A child can experience life-threatening breathing issues because there isn’t enough room for lungs to develop as they should or fully expand while breathing.
Underdeveloped or missing chest muscles at birth also can affect the shoulder, arm and hand. Poland syndrome usually affects one side of the body.
Chest Deformity Treatments
Treatment plans for chest wall deformities depend on the type, severity, age and current health of the child. The conditions can be treated with bracing, surgery or monitoring. Our pediatric surgeons work with families to develop a plan unique to the child. Our surgeons are up to date with the latest techniques for repairing chest wall deformities. Some procedures used to treat chest wall deformities include:
- Nuss procedure: This procedure can repair pectus excavatum. Small incisions are made and a bar is inserted to push out the chest. This procedure is similar to using braces on teeth. The chest can then be remodeled in two years. Not all patients with pectus excavatum are eligible for this procedure.
- Ravitch procedure: This procedure can repair both pectus excavatum and pectus carinatum. In this surgery, deformed cartilage is removed and the sternum is reshaped.
Our team can work with you to determine the plan that works best for your child.