Children's Hospital Colorado

Pectus Excavatum

What is pectus excavatum?

Pectus excavatum is a condition in which the breastbone is sunken into the chest. This is sometimes called sunken or funnel chest. While this can be noted early in life, pediatric pectus excavatum often worsens during a growth spurt in adolescence.

The severity of this condition can range from mild to severe. In cases that are moderate to severe, children may become self-conscious and can have a negative body image. Extremely severe cases of pectus excavatum can affect the function of the heart and lungs.

What causes pectus excavatum?

The exact cause of pectus excavatum is not known. It is most likely caused by abnormal growth of the cartilage between the ribs and the sternum.

Who gets pectus excavatum?

Pectus excavatum is more common in boys than girls. About 30% of children with pectus excavatum have another family member with a chest wall deformity. 

Children with pectus excavatum may have scoliosis, but the two conditions are treated separately. Pectus excavatum may also be associated with some underlying pulmonary conditions such as a diaphragmatic hernia or spinal muscular atrophy or rare connective tissue disorders and syndromes.

Some syndromes associated with pectus excavatum include: