Medical Q&As

Pectus carinatum - explain?

Can you please give me information on pectus carinatum? What causes it? Can it be harmful to the lungs? Can anything be done to correct it?

Pectus carinatum is also known by the politically incorrect name of pigeon chest. It is characterised by a forward projection of the sternum or breastbone, which makes the front wall of the chest convex. The deformity is thought to be due to excessive growth of the costal cartilages, which are the pieces of cartilage that attach the individual ribs to the breastbone. This rapid growth causes the chest wall to buckle and protrude outwards. The deformity is usually noticeable at birth but becomes much more prominent during the rapid spurts of growth that occur in early adolescence. The deformity fails to progress any further once growth has ceased at approximately 18 years of age. Pectus carinatum does not affect the growth and development of the heart and lungs but opinion differs on its impact on physiological function. Some studies have suggested that people with pectus carinatum have less stamina and endurance while engaging in strenuous exercise and that they are more prone to respiratory infection. However, other experts seriously contest such data. It is possible to surgically correct the deformity of pectus carinatum but it is a major undertaking and involves removal of the overgrown cartilages.