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Pectus Excavatum

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Pectus excavatum, also called sunken chest or funnel chest, is a growth problem that affects the breastbone and causes it to sink inward. It's often noticeable at birth, but it becomes more pronounced in the growth spurt during puberty. It's more common in boys than in girls.

Risk Factors

The cause of pectus excavatum is unknown, but it can run in families. It's more common in people who have:

  • Connective tissue disorders, such as Marfan and Ehlers-Danlos syndromes
  • Osteogenesis imperfecta
  • Noonan syndrome
  • Scoliosis
  • Turner syndrome

Symptoms

Often, those who have a mild condition don't have symptoms – the only sign is a slight chest indentation. People who have a moderate or severe case may have:

  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Recurrent respiratory infections
  • Shortness of breath during exercise
  • Tiredness and reduced stamina

Pectus excavatum can also make people feel self-conscious about the way their chest looks, which can lower their self-esteem.

If you or your child needs treatment for pectus excavatum, you can be confident in the surgical team at the University of Miami Health System. Our surgeons use the latest approaches and minimally invasive procedures to treat both children and adults. You get comprehensive care from a highly skilled, experienced team.

Why Choose UHealth?

Advanced surgical expertise. As an academic medical center, we offer the latest, proven approaches backed by the leading-edge research of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Our surgeons are known internationally for outstanding surgical care. Doctors worldwide come to the UHealth to learn advanced minimally invasive and robotic surgeries.

A comprehensive team. Digestive health specialists work as a team with dietitians, surgeons, and other specialists to ensure you get complete care. You work with a team that gives you individual attention and treatment that offers you the best possible results.

Leaders in robotic surgery treatment. We have some of the world’s most experienced robotic surgeons for minimally invasive urologic procedures. We were the first academic medical center in the world to get the da Vinci Xi robotic surgery system. Our surgeons have completed more than 5,000 robotic surgeries — procedures that offer less pain and scarring and a faster recovery.

World-class health care for children. Children and their families come from all over the world to receive top-quality care from our compassionate team of pediatric specialists. Children receive personalized, kid-friendly attention from doctors who are sought out for their expertise.

Questions? We're here to help.

Our appointment specialists are ready to help you find what you need. Contact us today.

Tests

  • Imaging Exams

    Your doctor will use a chest CT scan to see your breastbone and measure the extent of the indentation using a calculation called the Haller index.

  • Heart Tests

    Your doctor may use a few noninvasive tests to check your heart function. An electrocardiogram uses adhesive patches with electrodes placed on your chest to check your heart's electrical signals and heartbeat. An echocardiogram uses ultrasound (sound waves) to show your heart and valves.

  • Lung Function Tests

    Your doctor may use lung function tests to measure how much air your lungs can hold and how quickly air moves in and out of them. Tests may include spirometry, plethysmography, gas diffusion, or inhalation challenge tests.

  • Exercise Stress Test

    This test lets your doctor see how your heart and lungs function during exercise on a stationary bike or treadmill.

Treatments

  • Surgery

    Our surgeons use a minimally invasive approach called video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) to treat pectus excavatum. Your surgeon makes two small cuts on the side of your chest and another, separate cut in your chest to insert a tiny camera – this lets your surgeon see inside your chest during the procedure. Your surgeon will place one or more curved metal bars behind your breastbone to push it into the right position. The bars stay there for three years as your breastbone is reshaped, and then they’re removed.