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Pigeon breast is the popular name given to a rare malformation, scientifically known as Pectus carinatum, in which the breastbone is more prominent, causing a bulge in the chest. Depending on the degree of change, this bump can be quite noticeable or go unnoticed.
Generally, children with Pectus carinatum do not have any he alth problems, as the heart and lungs continue to function correctly, however, due to physical changes, it is common for the child to feel uncomfortable with their own body.
Thus, although treatment is also done to relieve symptoms such as shortness of breath, it is often done just to improve the physical appearance, improving the child's self-esteem.
The most relevant characteristic of a person with a pigeon breast is the protrusion of the breastbone in the middle of the chest, which causes problems with self-esteem and body image. However, there are also cases where symptoms such as:
- Frequently feeling short of breath, especially during exercise;
- Frequent respiratory infections;
Deformation of the breast bone can be noticed shortly after birth or during the early years of childhood, but it is common for it to be more noticeable around age 12, due to the natural growth of the bones.
Associated with Pectus carinatum, pediatricians also frequently identify other changes in the muscles or spine, the most common being scoliosis, in which there is a curvature in the alignment of the spine. Learn more about scoliosis and how it is treated.
What causes pigeon breast
There is still no known cause for the appearance of Pectus carinatum, however, it is known that there is an excessive development of the cartilages that connect the sternum to the ribs, causing the bone to be more projected forward.
Most of the time this malformation passes through several members of the same family, with a 25% chance of the child being born with pigeon breast if there is any case in the family.
There are two main ways to correct the malformation caused by Pectus carinatum:
1. Chest strap
The brace is often used to try to avoid surgery and can be used on children or young adults when the bones are still growing. This type of device is placed over the sternum and puts pressure on the malformation, forcing the bones to return to the correct place.
Typically, the brace needs to be worn between 12 to 23 hours a day and the total treatment time will vary depending on the results. This type of brace should always be guided by the orthopedist, since depending on the degree and symmetry of the alteration, different braces may be needed.
Surgery is the fastest way to treat pigeon breast, but it is usually only used in the most severe cases or when the brace is not able to resolve the change.
The type of surgery used is known as Ravitch, and in this procedure, the doctor makes a cut in the chest, removes excess cartilage from the sternum and repositions the ribs correctly.
During surgery, the surgeon may place a metal bar inside the rib cage to help maintain the shape of the breast. This bar must be maintained for at least 6 months and, during this time, the child must avoid doing activities that involve hitting, such as soccer, for example.