Children's Hospital Colorado

Pectus Carinatum

What is pectus carinatum?

Pectus carinatum, also known as “pigeon chest,” is a condition in which the breastbone, or sternum, protrudes outward. The chest has a bowed shape with the breastbone and ribs pointing outward. The deformity can range from mild to severe. There is usually very little impact on internal organs. Children may experience low self-esteem, a lack of self-confidence and other social challenges because of the physical appearance of their chest.

There are two main types of pectus carinatum. The most common type is called chondrogladiolar prominence (Type 1). The bottom part of the ribs and sternum protrude forward in this type of deformity. The less common type is called chondromanubrial prominence (Type 2). With this type of deformity, the upper sternum protrudes forward and the lower sternum is pushed backwards, into the chest.

What causes pectus carinatum?

Pectus carinatum is most likely caused by the abnormal growth of cartilage between the ribs and the breastbone, but we do not know exactly why this happens. Children typically develop this condition during periods of rapid growth.

Who gets pectus carinatum?

Pectus carinatum is much more common in boys and may run in families. Some children have the condition at birth, but most children notice the condition during growth spurts in their adolescent and teen years.

In about 30% of cases, another family member will have a chest wall deformity (either pectus carinatum or pectus excavatum), but the inheritance pattern is unknown. Most children with pectus carinatum do not have another disorder. However, there are a variety of uncommon genetic syndromes or disorders that affect connective tissue and can increase the risk of having pectus carinatum also. These include:

  • Marfan syndrome
  • Noonan syndrome
  • Cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome
  • Poland syndrome
  • Osteogenesis imperfecta
  • Coffin-Lowry syndrome
  • Morquio disease

Children who have pectus carinatum may also have spinal anomalies or scoliosis. Treatment of scoliosis does not impact pectus carinatum or vice versa and each is treated separately.

Get to know our pediatric experts.

David Partrick, MD

David Partrick, MD

Surgery - Pediatric, Surgery

Andrea Bischoff, MD

Andrea Bischoff, MD

Surgery - Pediatric

Lauren Hill, MSN

Lauren Hill, MSN

Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

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Maureen Andrews, MSN

Maureen Andrews, MSN

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