Also know as sunken chest, pectus excavatum is a depression of the chest wall. The depression may be in the center of the chest or more pronounced on one side or the other (asymmetrical). A child can be born with pectus or develop it during the pubertal growth spurt. The deformity may become more severe with growth spurts. 

The pectus depression can squeeze or crowd the heart and lungs. Individuals may have difficulty catching their breath, tire easily, 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, allowing more room for the heart and lungs.

However, surgery can be successfully performed on patients through adulthood.

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