Pectus Carinatum

Pectus carinatum occurs in approximately 20 percent of people with a pectus deformity. Of those diagnosed, three out of four pectus carinatum patients are males.

What is Pectus Carinatum?

Pectus carinatum - also known as pigeon breast - is characterized by a prominent sternum and is usually asymptomatic.

Additional symptoms and conditions can include:

  • Chest pain
  • Scoliosis
  • Mitral valve prolapse
  • Connective tissue disorders

How is Pectus Carinatum Diagnosed?

Chest wall deformities can be evident in infancy, but many also develop or become more obvious as children grow. Abnormalities are usually noted by the parents, but may be evident only to the physician and found during routine chest examination.

Other deformities may be noted by the patient. Because the chest wall develops over time, becoming less flexible after infancy, disorders may become more or less problematic with maturation of the chest wall.

How is Pectus Carinatum Treated?

While surgery has been used successfully in the past for pectus carinatum, recent success has been achieved with external prosthetic compression bracing. Nationwide Children's is the only hospital in Ohio to offer this specific treatment. The custom brace is worn for nine to 12 months and has minimal impact on patients’ activities. The rare patients who do not respond to bracing are usually amenable to surgery.


The optimal ages for chest wall deformity referrals are between 10 and 12 years. Patients are examined earlier if parents or the primary care physician have questions.

If patients are diagnosed after adolescence, they can still be examined to determine what their options are given the severity of the deformity. With any of these referrals, no pre-visit studies are needed.

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