Pigeon breast; Pigeon chest
Pectus carinatum is present when the chest protrudes over the sternum. It is often described as giving the person a bird-like appearance.
Pectus carinatum may occur alone or along with other genetic disorders or syndromes. The condition causes the sternum to protrude. There is a narrow depression along the sides of the chest. This gives the chest a bowed-out appearance similar to that of a pigeon.
People with pectus carinatum generally develop a normal heart and lungs. However, the deformity may prevent these from functioning as well as they could. There is some evidence that pectus carinatum may prevent complete emptying of air from the lungs in children. These young people may have less stamina, even if they do not recognize it.
Pectus deformities can also have an impact on a child's self-image. Some children live happily with pectus carinatum. For others, the shape of the chest can damage their self-image and self-confidence. These feelings may interfere with forming connections to others.
Causes may include:
In many cases the cause is unknown.
No specific home care is needed for this condition.
Contact your health care provider if you notice that your child's chest seems abnormal in shape.
Your provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your child's medical history and symptoms. Questions may include:
Tests that may be done include:
A brace may be used to treat children and young adolescents. Surgery is sometimes done. Some people have gained improved exercise ability and better lung function after surgery.
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Gottlieb LJ, Reid RR, Slidell MB. Pediatric chest and trunk defects. In: Rodriguez ED, Losee JE, Neligan PC, eds. Plastic Surgery: Volume 3: Craniofacial, Head and Neck Surgery and Pediatric Plastic Surgery. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 40.
Kelly RE, Martinez-Ferro M. Chest wall deformities. In: Holcomb GW, Murphy JP, St. Peter SD, eds. Holcomb and Ashcraft's Pediatric Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 20.
Wald O, Izhar U, Sugarbaker DJ. Lung, chest wall, pleura and mediastinum. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 21st ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022:chap 58.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 7/1/2023
Reviewed By: Charles I. Schwartz, MD, FAAP, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, General Pediatrician at PennCare for Kids, Phoenixville, PA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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