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Pectus Excavatum – causes, side effects and treatments at

Thursday, May 31, 2018 by

Pectus excavatum refers to the abnormal development of the rib cage. A patient with this congenital disorder has a sternum/breastbone that grows inward, which causes a noticeable and often severe indentation of the chest wall.

Pectus excavatum occurs by itself and its exact cause remains unknown. Some medical problems linked with pectus excavatum may include:

  • Marfan syndrome – A connective tissue disease.
  • Noonan syndrome – A disorder that causes various parts of the body to develop abnormally.
  • Poland syndrome – A disorder that results in undeveloped or lack of chest muscles.
  • Rickets – The softening and weakening of the bones.
  • Scoliosis – Refers to abnormal curving of the spine.

Pectus excavatum is also called “funnel chest,” “sunken chest,” or Trichterbrust.

Known symptoms, risk factors for pectus excavatum

A patient with pectus excavatum will have less space in their chest and this may limit heart and lung function. The condition can also cause both physical and psychological side effects.

The physical side effects of pectus excavatum usually include:

  • Chest pain
  • Decreased stamina
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath during physical activity

The psychological side effects of the condition may include:

  • Clinical depression
  • Self-esteem issues
  • Significant embarrassment due to the appearance of the chest

The risks patients with the condition face will depend on the severity of the deformity and how their heart and lungs are working. The majority of pectus excavatum cases severe enough to require surgery can still be treated when an individual is either a child or a teenager.

Body systems harmed by pectus excavatum

Pectus excavatum may cause complications linked to some secondary medical disorders such as:

  • The compression and displacement of the heart and lungs – The main complications of the condition are caused by the indentation in the sternum. A patient’s lungs may not have enough space to expand and contract and the heart may be squeezed, which can affect its pumping capacity.
  • Improperly aligned joints – This can be caused by an abnormal posture. This complication can prevent individuals from performing some work-related physical tasks, e.g., operating certain types of machinery.
  • The inability to participate in certain physical activities – This includes running or swimming.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent pectus excavatum

The following foods or nutrients can help manage the symptoms pectus excavatum:

  • Dates – Eating four to five dates every day can boost your tolerance levels. Dates can also help prevent exhaustion and fatigue.
  • Ginger and turmeric – These two spices can help treat and prevent frequent chest infections. Combine a spoon of powdered turmeric, two spoons of dried and powdered ginger root, and some honey. Consume the mix daily at least once or twice.
  • Homeopathy drugs (e.g., alfalfa, Arnica, and cactus) – These can help treat heart murmurs and palpitations.

Treatments, management plans for pectus excavatum

Pectus excavatum can be corrected with either non-surgical or surgical methods. Treatment for the condition aims to correct the defect.

Non-surgical procedures for pectus excavatum include:

  • Magnets – To help align the sternum, a magnet will be inserted into the chest. The device will be worn for several years to eventually get the chest structure into shape.
  • Prosthetic implants – The implants will be used to superficially fill the dent in the patient’s chest. This method is used when the condition is very mild.
  • A vacuum force – A vacuum force can help lift and place the sternum in the proper position. A recent technique, this method is still in the experimental phase.

Moderate to severe cases of the condition may require surgical methods. Aside from bone defects, heart or lung conditions can also be corrected via surgery. Surgery is often performed on children and teenagers aged eight to 18 years.

Surgical procedures for the condition include:

  • The Nuss procedure – A less invasive procedure, this method involves steel rods surgically placed across the width of the chest. The rods are left in place for several years to help the rib cage develop into a proper shape.
  • The Ravitch technique – This method involves a large incision made on the chest. The defective shape of the rib cage is corrected using metal rods. This method is typically used on older patients.

Where to learn more


A patient with pectus excavatum has a sternum/breastbone that grows inward, which causes a noticeable and often severe indentation of the chest wall.

A patient with pectus excavatum will have less space in their chest and this may limit heart and lung function.

Pectus excavatum may cause complications linked to some secondary medical disorders such as the compression and displacement of the heart and lungs and improperly aligned joints.

Pectus excavatum can be corrected with either non-surgical or surgical methods.

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