A chest wall disorder is when a child is born with an unusually shaped breastbone. The two most common chest wall disorders are:

  • Pectus carinatum, or “pigeon chest”. When a child is born with a breastbone that curves outward in an unusually exaggerated way.
  • Pectus excavatum. When a child is born with an unusually sunken breastbone, giving the chest a “scooped out” appearance.

Often, chest wall disorders are not very noticeable in babies or young children but can become more noticeable as they enter puberty and adolescence. Many children with a chest wall disorder will not notice any symptoms other than an unusual physical appearance. However, children with pectus carinatum or pectus excavatum who feel self-conscious or have health complications due to their unusual chest shape may want to seek treatment.

Symptoms of Chest Wall Disorders

Signs and symptoms of chest wall disorders can include:

  • Asthma
  • Chest pain
  • Chest that curves unusually (in or out)
  • Coughing
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Heart murmur (extra sound during heartbeat)
  • Heart palpitations (beating too fast, too hard or fluttering)
  • Inability to exercise for long periods of time
  • Repeated respiratory infections
  • Shortness of breath, especially during exercise
  • Wheezing

When to see a doctor

If your child is experiencing shortness of breath, chest pain or other symptoms, they should see their pediatrician for proper diagnosis and treatment. If your child is bothered by the appearance of their chest wall disorder, treatment may be helpful.

Causes of Chest Wall Disorders

Chest wall disorders are caused by a genetic defect present at birth.

Who’s at risk

If someone in your family has a chest wall disorder, you may be at an increased risk of having a baby with the condition. If your child has any of the following genetic health conditions, they may be at an increased risk of having a chest wall disorder:

  • Down syndrome
  • Edwards syndrome (affects growth)
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (causes problems with collagen, a substance that adds strength and elasticity to the body’s connective tissues)
  • Homocystinuria (prevents the body from processing certain proteins correctly)
  • Marfan syndrome (affects the body’s connective tissue)
  • Morquio syndrome (affects the bones, spine, organs and physical abilities)
  • Noonan syndrome (causes short stature, unusual facial features, bleeding problems and other complications)
  • Osteogenesis imperfecta (affects the bones)
  • Turner syndrome (causes short stature, ovary development failure and heart problems in females)

Request an Appointment

Contact an Orlando Health doctor

If you suspect that your child may have a chest wall disorder, make an appointment with an Orlando Health pediatrician today so your child can start on the road to improved health.