In some people, pectus carinatum is so mild that treatment isn't necessary. If treatment is needed and the child's bones are still growing, your doctor will probably recommend trying a brace first. Bracing doesn't work as well in older children and adults, but surgical repair may be an option for these age groups.
A padded adjustable brace can help flatten your chest gradually. This works best in children whose bones haven't stopped growing yet, because the cartilage that attaches their ribs to their breastbone is still flexible enough to be remolded by the brace.
Most children wear the brace at least 18 hours a day for three to six months. After your chest achieves the desired appearance, you may need to continue wearing the brace eight hours a day — usually while you sleep — until your bones stop growing.
Because the brace can irritate the skin, it may be best to wear a snug, moisture-wicking shirt under the brace and then your regular street clothes over the brace.
If the condition is not addressed until late teen years or adulthood, surgery may be required to correct the problem, since the chest cartilage is much less flexible at that point.
During the surgical repair, your breastbone will be reshaped and repositioned. The cartilage that attached the ribs to the breastbone may need to be removed or reshaped. A curved metal bar might be fitted across your chest to help hold your breastbone in the proper position.
Mayo Clinic anesthesiologists and pediatric surgeons use the latest methods of postoperative pain control that include delivering medications through a flexible narrow tube inserted near the nerves of the chest to help speed recovery. You will have to limit some activities for up to six months after surgery.
May 16, 2014
- Kliegman RM, et al. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2011. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 23, 2014.
- Nuchtern JG, et al. Pectus carinatum. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 23, 2014.
- Barbara Woodward Lips Patient Education Center. Teens and pectus carinatum. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2010.
- Lee RI, et al. Bracing is an effective therapy for pectus carinatum: Interim results. Journal of Pediatric Surgery. 2013;48:184.
- Desmarais TJ, et al. Pectus carinatum. Current Opinion in Pediatrics. 2013;25:375.
- Zarroug AE (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 8, 2014.
- Golden AK. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 28, 2014.