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Funnel Chest (Pectus Excavatum) - What You Need to Know

Posted by Paula Schmitt on
Funnel Chest (Pectus Excavatum) - What You Need to Know

Funnel chest, medically known as pectus excavatum, is a condition in which the breastbone is sunken into the chest. Simply put, the chest is concave, with the center depressed into the torso. It is a painful and often dangerous condition that can dramatically impact the health of the person suffering from it. My son, Joseph, suffered from this condition, and it caused him a lot of pain. The important thing to note here is the pain was always there even though it was a relatively mild case. In fact, it was so mild that he wasn't diagnosed with funnel chest until just a couple of months before his 19th birthday.

It took years for us to figure out what was causing him pain and then to have it remedied through corrective surgery. Had we known, we would have acted much sooner. Because of that experience, I want to make sure everyone out there knows about this condition. The more information that is out the more likely one less child will have to suffer one day longer than necessary.

What is Funnel Chest

This condition is a malformation in the chest in which the breastbone has essentially grown in the wrong direction. The deformity is usually noticeable shortly after birth, although the severity of the condition usually worsens during pubescent growth spurts. Even mild cases of funnel chest can be painful, but severe cases can impact lung and heart function over time, making this a dangerous condition for those who have a particularly bad case. One thing to note is that this condition is more common in boys than girls, so a painful chest coupled with any depressed look in the sternum of a male child should be cause for an immediate trip to the doctor.

Funnel Chest Symptoms

Funnel chest symptoms vary depending upon the severity of the malformation. In mild cases, the symptoms may be no more than a mild indentation in the chest coupled with varying degrees of discomfort of pain. In severe cases symptoms can include:
  • Low exercise tolerance
  • Rapid heartbeat or heart palpitations
  • Chronic respiratory infections
  • Wheezing or coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Heart murmur
  • Fatigue

Funnel Chest Treatment

Treatment for this condition range from physical therapy to surgery. Physical therapy is the preferred method of treatment in mild cases, as it allows those suffering from the condition to improve chest expansion to help alleviate symptoms. Surgical options are more commonly used in moderate to severe cases of pectus excavatum, where physical therapy isn't enough to dramatically improve the health and quality of life of the patient.

Funnel Chest Resources

The best resource I've found for information and support regarding pectus excavatum is the Pectus Excavatum Foundation. The foundation is devoted to raising awareness of the disorder and lobby Congress and the insurance industry to recognize funnel chest as a condition which should be routinely covered rather than making patients jump through hoops to get the help that they need.

Pectus Excavatum foundation also serves as a hub for funnel chest information, allowing people to determine if they or their loved ones might have the condition and learn what they can do about it. It's an excellent resource which helps people all over the country develop a deeper understanding of the conditions and how they can find relief.

If you or a loved one has any of the symptoms of funnel chest, head over to the Pectus Excavatum Foundation website and learn more about the disorder. Then speak with your doctor immediately. There is relief in sight.

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