Chest Wall Deformity

While an initial diagnosis of a chest wall deformity may seem overwhelming for a parent, rest assured. These are much more common than you may think. SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital uses a multidisciplinary approach for treating chest wall deformities. Our SLUCare Physician Group team - including cardiothoracic surgeons, pediatric surgeons and orthopedists - work hand-in-hand to accurately map the best care plan for your child.

These structural abnormalities can be classified into two different types:

  • Pectus excavatum: known as “sunken” or “funnel” chest
  • Pectus carinatum: known as “pigeon” chest

In cases of funnel chest, your child bone caves into their chest, forming a depression or cup-like structure. With pigeon chest, the bone pushes outward, forming a mound-link structure. Scoliosis is an additional risk associated with the latter. If your child has been diagnosed with pigeon chest, we do encourage you to have them tested for scoliosis on an annual basis.

Causes of Chest Wall Deformities

Funnel chest can be either the result of a congenital defect, or develop within the first few months of birth. On occasion, mild cases can correct themselves before your child turns three. In more moderate and severe cases, though, the condition grows progressively worse, requiring surgery.

Pigeon chest develops somewhat differently. typically not appearing until much later during adolescence.

The actual cause of these conditions is still under study, but a genetic component is being investigated. Most cases do not involve a family history, but those that do have piqued the interests of geneticists. What we do know, is that is pigeon chest is present during infancy, it may be related to premature fusion of the segments of the breastbone, a short wide breastbone and congenital heart disease.

Signs & Symptoms of Chest Wall Deformities

The signs and symptoms of chest wall deformities do vary with diagnosis and age, but the most prominent sign includes difficulty breathing. As a child ages, they may also experience chest pain and frequent respiratory infections.

Treating Chest Wall Deformities

Depending on the diagnosis, your child’s treatments will vary. For milder cases though, there is no need for intervention.

In more severe cases, surgery may be required.

While chest wall deformities are recognized at very young ages, the best time for treatment is around 10 years of age and older. The older the child, the better their bone structure will hold the changes the procedures make. Unfortunately, if we treat your child too soon, whatever changes made, may reverse during growth spurts.

Regardless of your child’s condition, our specialists complete a thorough review of their health and diagnosis before making any treatment decisions. Your child’s wellbeing is our top priority, and quality of life plays a large role in that.

If your child has been diagnosed with a chest wall deformity, schedule an appointment with our chest wall deformity clinic at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon. We’ll walk through your child’s medical records and discuss next steps. Call our dedicated scheduling line at 314-678-5499 to get started today.

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