What is Pectus Excavatum?

Pectus Excavatum (whose meaning in Latin corresponds to ?hollowed chest?) is a highly common chest abnormality. Pectus Excavatum is often referred to as sunken chest, funnel chest, cobbler?s chest or a dent in the chest. More specifically, it is a congenital deformity of the anterior wall of the chest, in which several ribs and the sternum grow incorrectly, producing a sunken appearance of the chest. The condition can develop at any point during an individuals natural growth cycle. However, it most commonly occurs at birth, but doesn’t become obvious until early adolescence/puberty when growth is more rapid. Once the growth cycle is complete the anomaly remains the same unless corrected with cosmetic surgery or non-surgical alternatives. More information about the signs & symptoms of Pectus Excavatum can be found on the Signs & Symptoms page.

As a deformity, Pectus Excavatum is often considered to be purely cosmetic, since in the majority of cases it carries no significant medical effect. However, in some more severe cases, it can impair cardiac respiratory functions and cause pain in the chest and possibly back. Such cases occur because the condition displaces the heart to the left, placing it under additional pressure, whilst also impairing the respiratory movements of the lungs, resulting in breathlessness upon exertion, and possibly pain around the heart and chest; though such cases are extremely rare.
Despite it tending to be cosmetic in nature, those who suffer from the condition may experience significant negative physiological effects, and avoid activities which put the chest on display and expose the deformity. More information about how the severity of Pectus Excavatum can be diagnosed is available on the diagnosis page.

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