Sunrise Children's Hospital
For more than three decades, Sunrise Children’s Hospital has been Nevada’s largest, most comprehensive children’s hospital.

A Closer Look at Pectus Excavatum

Pectus excavatum is a common congenital defect of the chest cavity in which the breastbone is sunken in, creating a cone-like shape. It may be diagnosed after birth but can become severe during adolescence. Although treatment is not always required, some children require surgery to deal with severe symptoms. If your child has pectus excavatum, his or her pediatric specialist will monitor the condition and determine when treatment is needed.

Who is at risk of developing pectus excavatum?
The cause of pectus excavatum is not known, but boys are more likely to experience it than girls. Doctors suspect that it could be an inherited condition, as it often occurs in families. Because the exact trigger for the condition has not been identified, there are no clear factors that create an increased risk of having a child with pectus excavatum, other than having a family history of the condition.

What are the symptoms?
In some cases, the symptoms are very minor and can include a slight indentation in the chest that may be noticeable after birth. During adolescence, when a growth spurt happens, the indentation may become more dramatic. If the breastbone is significantly sunken in, it can squeeze the heart and lungs and cause shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, chest pain, heart murmurs, and arrhythmias, as Sunrise Children’s Hospital pediatric surgeon Dr. Nicholas Fiore explains in this video.

How is it treated?
Treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms. For mild cases, no treatment may be needed or physical therapy may be used to alleviate mild symptoms. In more severe cases, surgery to repair concave chest cavity and situate the breastbone in a healthier position may be recommended. Surgery is usually recommended during adolescence, but some people wait until adulthood to undergo the procedure.

Our pediatric heart care program at Sunrise Children’s Hospital is one of the largest in the western U.S., and we are the only hospital in the region that is equipped to perform pediatric open heart surgery. For more information about pediatric heart care , our NICU, and pediatric care in Las Vegas, call (702) 233-5437.