Bone, Joint and Muscle Conditions

Pectus Excavatum Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of Pectus Excavatum

In pectus excavatum, the cartilage that holds the ribs to the breastbone grows abnormally and pushes the breastbone inward, so your child’s chest looks sunken.

You might notice a dent in your child’s chest as a baby, but sometimes it doesn’t show up until later. The dent might become more noticeable as your child grows, particularly during growth spurts. Or it might disappear and never become a problem. What often appears to be pectus excavatum in babies goes away on its own.

Sometimes, pectus excavatum doesn’t cause any symptoms. But symptoms can occur when the breastbone pushes on the heart and lungs. Moderate-to-severe pectus excavatum can cause:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing when exercising
  • Concern with body image

Pectus Excavatum Diagnosis

During your first visit to Seattle Children’s, the doctor will examine your child and ask about their symptoms. Your child may need additional tests so doctors can evaluate the heart and lungs and decide whether your child needs pectus excavatum treatment. These tests might include:

  • CT scan (computed tomography scan, sometimes called “cat scan”)
  • Lung function tests, sometimes during exercise, to check breathing patterns
  • Ultrasound of the heart (also called echocardiogram or “echo”)

Contact Us

To learn more about pectus excavatum treatment at Seattle Children’s, call our General and Thoracic Surgery Department at 206-987-2794 x4.