Pectus Excavatum - FAQs

To speak with a pectus excavatum specialist, call 410-328-5730.

Pectus Excavatum describes an abnormal formation of the rib cage that gives the chest a caved-in or sunken appearance.

Pectus excavatum is a congenital (present at birth) abnormality that can be mild or severe. It usually develops during pregnancy. It is caused by too much growth of the connective tissue that joins the ribs to the breastbone. This causes the sternum to malform inward. The child typically has a depression in the center of the chest over the sternum, and this may appear quite deep.

If pectus excavatum is severe, it may affect the heart and lungs, making exercise difficult. Also, the appearance of the chest may cause psychological difficulty for the child.

Call the office at 410-328-5730 if your child is experiencing any of the following after surgery:

    Meet the Pediatric
    Surgery and
    Urology Team
  • Temperature greater than 101°
  • Redness, drainage or extreme swelling at the incisions
  • Significant bleeding from the incisions
  • Worsening chest pain, especially with deep breaths
  • Pain, not controlled by the medicine
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Continual cough
  • Injury to the chest

Is there anything we can do for pain management?

Your child will be given several medications to help control his/her pain. Some medications are taken 'as needed'. Others are given at specific times. Take all medication as directed.

Most patients say that the pain is worse at night and also first thing in the morning.

It is more comfortable to sleep in a semi-upright position, like in a recliner. This may provide better rest for 3-4 weeks.

Should I limit my child's physical activity after surgery?

Here are some tips to follow after surgery:

  • No rigorous physical activity for 4 weeks after surgery.
  • Walking is excellent exercise and should be encouraged.
  • Encourage good posture. NO slouching!
  • No heavy lifting (>5 lbs) for 3 months after surgery. This includes backpacks for school.
  • No contact sports or gymnastics for 3 months after surgery.
  • Return to school 2-3 weeks after surgery or sooner if your child is ready.

How should I care for the incisions?

After surgery, here are some guidelines to follow while caring for the incision:

  • Shower five days after surgery
  • Swimming is permitted 2 weeks after surgery
  • Steri-Strips are covering the small incisions. Leave them in place for 1 week. If they are still intact after 2 weeks, remove them.

Should I get a Medic Alert Bracelet?

Your child should have a Medic Alert Bracelet.

  • The inscription should read: "Surgical steel bar in place under sternum."
  • On the accompanying card should be written: "CPR can be performed. May require more external force. If defibrillation is needed, paddle placement needs to be anterior/posterior."
  • The bracelet will also assist at security check areas.