What’s the Difference Between Pectus Carinatum and Pectus Excavatum?

“What’s the difference between Pectus Carinatum and Pectus Excavatum?” – is a question we often get asked, and this blog aims to provide information on Pectus Carinatum and Pectus Excavatum, helping you differentiate between them to navigate potential treatment options.

The chest wall, a crucial protector of your organs and supporter of respiration, can sometimes develop abnormalities in the ribs and breastbone, leading to chest wall deformities. Among the most prevalent of these conditions are Pectus Carinatum and Pectus Excavatum. It’s important to note that while they may seem isolating, these conditions are actually quite common. They share some similarities, but each has its own unique characteristics and treatment approaches.

The Difference Between Pectus Carinatum and Pectus Excavatum

Pectus Carinatum: When the Chest Protrudes

Often referred to as “pigeon chest,” Pectus Carinatum is a chest wall deformity characterised by an outward protrusion of the breastbone and the lower ribs. This creates a visible, often asymmetrical, bulge on the chest. While the exact cause of Pectus Carinatum remains unknown, theories suggest it might be linked to abnormal cartilage growth connecting the ribs to the breastbone (sternum) or a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Pectus Carinatum typically presents itself during childhood, often in the early teenage years. Although some individuals may not experience any symptoms beyond the chest’s outward appearance, in severe cases, the protrusion can:

  • Impede breathing, especially during physical activity.
  • Cause chest pain or tightness.
  • Lead to respiratory infections.
  • Affect posture and self-confidence.

Diagnosis of Pectus Carinatum is usually straightforward. A physical examination by a specialist is sufficient for diagnosis, and further test can be done if required. 

Pectus Excavatum

Pectus Excavatum, also known as “funnel chest” or “concave chest,” presents the opposite condition to Pectus Carinatum. Here, the breastbone dips inwards, creating a sunken appearance in the chest. The severity of inward depression can vary significantly.

Similar to Pectus Carinatum, the exact cause of Pectus Excavatum is unknown. However, genetics likely play a role, as the condition can run in families, and it can also be syndromic (related to a specific type of syndrome).   

While most individuals with Pectus Excavatum experience no breathing difficulties, severe cases can:

  • Limit lung capacity, leading to shortness of breath during exertion.
  • Cause chest pain or discomfort.
  • Affect heart function in rare instances.
  • Impact self-esteem due to the visible chest deformity.

The diagnosis of Pectus Excavatum follows a similar approach to Pectus Carinatum. The severity of the inward depression is assessed through physical examination and potentially an X-ray or scan.

What Treatment Options Are Available for Chest Wall Deformities?

The decision for treatment depends on the severity of the chest wall deformity and the presence of any associated symptoms. Thankfully, there are several options available for both Pectus Carinatum and Pectus Excavatum:

  • Non-surgical Management: Observation and monitoring might be sufficient for milder cases, particularly in growing children. 
  • Bracing: If prescribed, specially designed chest braces can gently apply pressure to reshape the chest wall over time. Bracing is most effective in younger patients with compliant wear during growth spurts.
  • Surgery: In severe cases where the chest wall deformity significantly impacts breathing or quality of life, surgical procedures can be performed to correct the chest wall.

Still Wondering What’s the Difference Between Pectus Carinatum and Pectus Excavatum?

If you suspect your child has or has been diagnosed with a chest wall deformity, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Most individuals with Pectus Carinatum or Pectus Excavatum can lead healthy and active lives with proper diagnosis and treatment. Our team at Rowan Berkowitz is here to guide you through the journey and provide the support you need throughout the process.

Rowan Berkowitz specialises in the non-invasive treatment of chest wall deformities, ensuring patients receive the most advanced and personalised care.

For further information or to schedule a consultation, please get in touch with us at Rowan Berkowitz.

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