Bone, Joint and Muscle Conditions

Pectus Excavatum

What is pectus excavatum?

Pectus excavatum (PECK-tuss ex-kuh-VAW-tum) is a breastbone and rib cartilage deformity that causes a dent in the chest. It is also called “sunken chest” or “funnel chest.” Most times, this dent is in the lower half of the breastbone. This might press on the heart and lungs. Pectus excavatum may be mild, moderate or severe. Additional pectus excavatum symptoms include discomfort and shortness of breath. The opposite condition, called pectus carinatum, makes the breastbone and cartilage bow outward.

Pectus Excavatum in Children

This condition affects about 1 in 1,000 children, and boys are 5 times more likely than girls to have it. It usually affects only one person in a family. Sometimes, children with pectus excavatum have an associated condition such as scoliosis or Marfan syndrome.

Pectus Excavatum at Seattle Children’s

We see dozens of children with this condition each year at Seattle Children’s. Many children can live a normal, active childhood without needing surgery. In more severe cases, pectus excavatum treatment includes surgery to stop a child’s breastbone from pushing on their heart and lungs. Our surgery team has performed the operations that correct this condition — the Ravitch repair and Nuss procedure — hundreds of times.

Our surgeons are specially trained in pediatric surgery, with special expertise in children with chest wall conditions, which means they understand children’s needs and how their bodies are different from adult bodies.

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.