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Some children with pectus carinatum need no treatment at all. Of those who can benefit from treatment, many need only a pressure brace to reshape their chest over time. Some need surgery.

Pectus Carinatum Treatment Options

Treatment for pectus carinatum is often a pressure brace that your child wears. The brace works in the same way that braces work to move teeth. Gentle, constant pressure on the breastbone pushes it back into its normal position. Over time the bone and cartilage heal and stay in this position.

How long your child wears the pressure brace depends on the severity of the problem. Your child may need to wear the brace for as little as seven hours each day over the course of several months. Depending on the condition, your child may need to wear the brace daily for longer periods, and for up to a year.

Your child's doctor will check your child’s chest regularly as it moves under the pressure of the brace. The doctor will adjust the brace. Eventually, your child will no longer need to wear it.

Surgery for Pectus Carinatum

When children need more than a brace, we perform an operation to move the breastbone.

At the time of surgery, we give your child medicine to make them sleep without pain (general anesthesia). The surgeon makes a cut (incision) in the chest. Then the surgeon removes the cartilage that pushes the breastbone forward, but leaves behind the membranes that surround the cartilage. The surgeon cuts the breastbone so that it will lie flat. Finally, the surgeon sews the cartilage membranes into normal position. Cartilage will re-grow from these membranes.

The surgery takes about 2 to 6 hours, depending on how much cartilage must be removed. Your child will be in the recovery room for another hour. We will give your child pain medicine to make them comfortable.

Your child will be in the hospital for about one to seven days, depending on the severity of their condition and how much had to be done during surgery.

After Surgery for Pectus Carinatum

After your child goes home, you’ll need to keep the incision clean and dry until it heals. The surgery team will teach you how to care for the incision and how to give your child pain medicine at home.

Another important part of home care is limiting your child’s activity during recovery. Your child should:

  • Sit up straight without slouching for the first month after the surgery.
  • Avoid lifting anything heavy for a few months.
  • Avoid taking part in some sports for about six months.

Some of these limitations depend on the severity of the condition and extent of the surgery. The surgery team will explain these and other instructions to you before your child goes home.

About two to three weeks after surgery, your child will need to see the surgeon for a follow-up visit. The surgeon will make sure the incision is healing and your child is recovering well.

Who Treats This at Seattle Children's?

Should your child see a doctor?

Find out by selecting your child’s symptom or health condition in the list below:

Summer 2014: Good Growing Newsletter

In This Issue

  • Understanding the Power and Influence of Role Models
  • Legal Marijuana Means Greater Poisoning Risks for Children
  • Why Choose Pediatric Emergency Care?

Download Summer 2014 (PDF)