Pectus excavatum or “sunken chest” is a depression in the chest. The depression may be in the center of the chest or more pronounced on one side (asymmetrical). A child can be born with pectus or develop pectus during the pubertal growth spurt. The pectus may become more severe with growth spurts.
Pectus Excavatum: How It Affects The Patient
The pectus depression can squeeze or crowd the heart and lungs. Individuals may have difficulty catching their breath, tire easily, and/or complain of chest pain during exercise. At CHKD, we can determine the “grade” or severity of the pectus by calculating the Haller index from your child’s cardiac/thoracic MRI or CT scan of the chest.
Early evaluation by a CHKD pediatric surgeon is beneficial. Bones are softer in young children and more easily reshaped. As the pectus worsens and the child approaches the teenage years, the bones become harder. This can make it more difficult to raise the sternum up, allowing more room for the heart and lungs.
However, surgery can be successfully performed on patients through adulthood.