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Chest Wall Abnormalities Program

The most common abnormalities of the chest wall in children and adolescents are pectus excavatum and pectus carinatum. These may be evident in early childhood and even infancy, but generally become more pronounced through adolescence. In pectus excavatum, abnormally curved ribs are associated with the sternum (breastbone) being displaced backward toward the spine. This may cause shifting and compression of the heart and reduction in expansion of the lungs. In pectus carinatum, the abnormal ribs are associated with the sternum protruding outward. Both pectus excavatum and carinatum can have profound psychosocial effects on affected adolescents.

Columbia’s multidisciplinary medical team evaluates, monitors, and treats children and adolescents with a range of chest wall anomalies, from pectus excavatum and carinatum to rare, life-threatening conditions. Our pediatric surgeons provide care in collaboration with doctors from other pediatric specialties, including orthopedic surgery, plastic surgery, cardiology, pulmonology, genetics, and radiology, as well as nurse practitioners, orthotists, and physical therapists.

We have extensive experience in using a minimally invasive approach to treat pectus excavatum and in addressing pectus carinatum with bracing rather than surgery. With specialists from orthopedic surgery and pulmonology, we also care for children with severe, complex abnormalities affecting both the chest wall and spine.