Pectus Excavatum (Funnel Chest): Treatment Options Beyond Surgery

Pectus excavatum (PE), also known as funnel chest, is a visible chest wall deformity where the sternum sinks inward. While it can affect anyone, it’s more common in males. While surgery is an option for severe cases, there’s good news: conservative bracing treatment can be highly effective for mild to moderate cases.

Pectus Excavatum

WHAT Causes Pectus Excavatum?

The exact cause of PE is still unknown, however, research suggests a few factors that might be involved:

  1. Genetics: PE can sometimes run in families, indicating a possible genetic link.
  2. Connective Tissue Disorders: In some cases, PE can be associated with connective tissue disorders like Marfan syndrome. This disorder affects the body’s connective tissues, which could play a role in abnormal chest wall development.
  3. Developmental Issues: PE is believed to occur due to abnormal growth of the cartilage connecting the ribs to the breastbone during fetal development. This uneven growth causes the sternum to sink inward.

While the exact cause remains unknown, researchers continue investigating the factors contributing to PE.

Treatment Options for Pectus Excavatum

Suction bracing is one treatment option for PE. This type of brace uses a silicone cup to create a partial vacuum over the sunken area of the chest. This negative pressure aims to pull the sternum outward gently.

It might be considered for:

  1. Younger patients: The suction is gentle, so it could be a suitable treatment for young children.
  2. Mild cases: Similar to traditional braces, a suction brace might be most effective for mild PE.


If you’re concerned about PE,  contact Rowan Berkowitz today. During a consultation, we can:

  1. Discuss your child’s symptoms.
  2. Evaluate the severity of your child’s PE.
  3. Determine if bracing is the right treatment option.
  4. Design a custom brace, if prescribed, for optimal treatment and effectiveness.

Things to Consider with Suction Bracing

  1. Effectiveness: Studies on the long-term effectiveness of suction bracing for PE are ongoing.
  2. Compliance: Consistent use as prescribed is crucial for any bracing treatment.
  3. Consultation: Discussing the suitability of suction bracing with a specialist who can assess your child’s case and recommend the most appropriate approach is essential.

Rowan Berkowitz, a leading South African Orthotist specialising in chest deformities, can help you explore non-surgical options for your child to correct pectus excavatum. Here’s why bracing might be the right choice for you:

  1. Safe and Effective: Bracing gently applies pressure to reshape the chest wall over time. It’s a safe and proven approach, especially for growing children.
  2. Improved Appearance: Consistent brace wear can significantly improve the appearance of the chest wall, boosting confidence and self-esteem.
  3. Non-Invasive: Bracing avoids the risks and recovery time associated with surgery.
  4. Comfortable Wear: Modern braces are designed for comfort and ease of wear, allowing for daily activities with minimal disruption.

Prescribed Custom-Designed Braces for Optimal Results

We’ll work closely with you and your child to ensure a perfect fit and provide ongoing support throughout your treatment.

Don’t let pectus excavatum hold your child back. Explore the possibilities of conservative treatment with Rowan Berkowitz.


Is pectus excavatum serious?

Pectus excavatum, also known as funnel chest, is a condition that is more common in males than females. In severe cases, it can hinder the heart and lungs from functioning properly. However, even mild cases can cause children to feel self-conscious about their appearance. Fortunately, there are conservative treatment options available to correct the deformity.

Can you fix Pectus Excavatum without surgery?

Surgery isn’t the only treatment option for pectus excavatum. Conservative treatment options are available, including specialised bracing prescribed by a specialist.

What triggers Pectus Excavatum?

The cause of pectus excavatum remains a mystery. While genetics could be a factor (it can run in families), the exact cause is unknown. In some cases, Pectus Excavatum can occur alongside connective tissue disorders like Marfan syndrome.