What Is Pectus Excavatum? Growing Up With PE, Causes, Surgery, and Exercise

I have pectus excavatum, and I'm writing this article to help people understand what this condition is, what it involves, and the impact this condition has had on my daily life.

Pectus excavatum is the medical term for a chest deformity. It is sometimes also referred to as pigeon or funnel chest. The chest deformity is distinguished by a sunken sternum accompanied usually with flared ribs. Pectus excavatum will also cause some of the internal organs to be displaced; for example, the heart could be pushed up, down, or more to the left than normal. It is only when the heart is being obstructed or pushed against that the condition requires surgical correction.

There is also an opposite type of chest deformity called pectus carinatum, which is distinguished by a pushed-out sternum and chest.

Causes of Pectus Excavatum

There is much speculation into what the real cause of pectus excavatum is; however, the real reason is still unknown. Some believe it to be poorly coordinated bone structure, and others believe it is related to an overgrowth of bones in birth. Another hypothesis involves a lack of zinc and magnesium in the bones, which could possibly cause them to bend unnaturally.

For me it was simply that both my father and his father also had mild pectus excavatum, and they passed it down to me. I was the only one who inherited it, as it seemed to skip my brother entirely. Genetics is the most common cause of this condition, and if you find you have a slightly sunken sternum, it is likely that someone in your family has the same condition.

Growing Up With a Chest Deformity

The most common effects people with P.E will experience when growing up is low self esteem and a lack of confidence. This is due to being embarrassed to take off your shirt in public, as people will often stare at you and think you're some sort of freak.

As a young kid I experienced this embarrassment. The condition made me appear even skinnier than I actually was. I looked quite malnourished, when in fact I ate like a horse and played basketball 3 times a week.

Looking back on it now, it wasn't actually as bad as I felt it was at the time. You just have to try to not let all the stares bother you and be confident. Who cares if your chest doesn't look like every other sheep. It is unique, and if it's not giving you any real trouble it's something you can definitely live with and be happy.

Severity of the Condition

There are three main levels of pectus excavatum. They are mild, moderate, and severe.

Mild - The sternum is sunken only a little bit and sometimes it is barely noticeable the really mild pectus excavatum usually does not involve flared ribs unless the persons posture is poor.

Moderate - The sunken sternum is obvious when shirtless and often accompanied by flared ribs. The mild and moderate P.E often don't cause any trouble for the person unless bordering on severe.

Severe - This level of pectus excavatum usually requires surgery as the sunken sternum can be quite deep and can be putting a lot of pressure on the heart causing poor blood circulation , pain and difficulty breathing.

Even Billy Zane Has P.E.

Correcting your Pectus Excavatum

Surgery Correction

Many people opt to have the surgery to repair there P.E condition. The most commonly performed surgery is the NUSS procedure where a bar is inserted in the chest cavity and the bar is made in such a way that it will exert pressure outwardly onto the sternum to push the sternum out to the neutral position. This can be a very painful surgery and can take around 3 years to fully recover so its best to have it at a younger age.

The surgery has been performed for around 15 years now I believe and has been very successful but surgery isn't always the option many people use exercise and other cosmetic methods to improve the appearance of there chest.

Exercise Correction

Many people head to gym to improve there pectus excavatum appearance but there is a big misconception that using weight exercises will help fill in the sunken sternum as this is technically impossible as there is no muscle around your sternum unless you plan on building a greek god like chest.

The main thing people can work in the gym is a way to improve there postures and strengthen there back muscles ( back muscles will be stretched because of the sunken sternum often causing stretch marks on the back). Correcting your posture at the gym or out of the gym will go along way to improving your appearance because as posture improves your ribs and sternum will slowly begin returning to a normal position.

Be sure to check out my other articles on Pectus Excavatum Repair. It has a list of exercises with specific details and images to help you improve your chest appearance. Show me the exercises, Part 1. & Part 2.

Vacuum Bell
Vacuum Bell

Other correction methods

Vacuum Bell - The vacuum bell is a device used to help the appearance of pectus excavatum by using air pressure to pull the sunken sternum outwards. Billy Zane was known to use this device before a photo shoot it works by place a large bell like bowl over your chest then slowly increasing the air pressure inside to pull the sternum forward.

Silicon Insert - Many people use skin colored silicon inserts to cover there sunken sternums to make clothing appear more natural.

Brace/Corset - A posture vest or corset can be used to correct your posture, as well as bring in those flared ribs.

More by this Author

Comments 190 comments

heather 7 years ago

my 4 monthold has mild pe and this article is great for people who need more info on the subject. thank you

expectus profile image

expectus 7 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Glad it helped you:) Good work identifying it at such a young age too, Make sure your child maintains good posture it can greatly affect the appearance of his/her chest:)

k-dud 7 years ago

very good post buddy.

i have a moderate/severe case, and completely agree with the part about slowly developing confidence and being afraid to take off your shirt.

Heather 7 years ago

My baby had his 4 month check up with his pediatrician and we have decided to have a specialist evaluate his PE so there is a baseline to compare to as he develops and grows. And I will take your advice regarding posture.

Sandy  7 years ago

How do you know during infancy how mild or severe this PE will be?

expectus profile image

expectus 7 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Hi , Sandy that's a very hard thing to tell because it does usually get worse as you get older, not really worse but more noticeable as you grow.

A really severe condition would present other symptoms like breathing trouble and chest pains and you should keep your eye out for those,

during infancy pe may sometimes look quite severe, I remember when I was young when i would sit down PE would cause me to have a pot belly sort of look making the pe appear deeper than it actually was

mommaof5 7 years ago

hi there my son just turned 8 months old yesterday and he also was born with PE , im a little concerned with his breathing at night when he sleeps he breaths but then he'll stop for a few secs not exhaling or inhaling but his chest still moves up and down , ive thought it was to do with his chest but the doctor i seen said no he beileved it to be caused but a head cold he suffered with, is there any info you could add to this concern, thanks

expectus profile image

expectus 7 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Hello, I understand you concern , you got to keep a close eye on those young ones from what you describe the only explanation I could give for stopping inhaling and exhaling is that because of the P.E it is hard to get in a nice deep breath and he may be getting very shallow breaths, when you noticed him not breathing did you put your hand infront of his face to see if you could feel any air.

I have also heard of cases were mucus or reflux can sometimes obstruct your babys breathing passage for a short peroid so this may be what's happening if he did have a cold not too long ago. How does your son appear at these times when he stops breathing, does he appear pale or anything like that

mommaof5 7 years ago

thanks 4 replying so quick, ya ive checked for air but theres none its only for a short sec or two and i usually nudge him and say breath hehe and it could very well be due to his cold and being stuffed up i just out of 5 kids have never noticed any others ever doing such a thing when sick and cause of his PE and lack of info on the topic it concerned me i think ill end up seeing another doctor on this issue just to rest my mind , my son looks and acts like a very health happy little guy so as far as pale and stuff no he looks great its just when he sleeps at night..weird!when i had him 8 months ago no doctor even told me he had PE i at first thought nothing of his chest thinknig it was just my hormones passed through him giving 'Cash" my son the appearance of breasts but after a few days i started questioning it and at his 6 week check up is when i asked the doctor about his checst and all i was told was what it was called and they asked me if his breathing was good and back then i never noticed they way he slept so i guess that's why im a bit concerned now ,i just wanted to thank you soooo much for posting all your info on PE its been a great help

expectus profile image

expectus 7 years ago from Land Downunder Author

My pleasure mommaof5:) good idea getting another doctors opinion on it & goodluck with all your kids :) all the best

Pexcavation 7 years ago

Expectus, you're really providing a good source of information for all of us - thanks! I would like to know if there is any evidence that the target exercises, vacuum bell, and corset/braces eventually make permanent changes/corrections in moderate pectus excavatum and flared ribs?

expectus profile image

expectus 7 years ago from Land Downunder Author

thanks for the comment, I am not sure how permanent these things are because most of the time you will have to be very consistent and as you achieve a level your happy with , every now and then keep up a maintenance program to keep your desired look.

here's a link to some braces and results

I have tried the vacuum bell myself and see it as a more of a temporary solution , and to be honest i think it puts way to much pressure on your heart and surrounding organs,

your best bet is exercise and bracing, and i would have to say bracing will get you the results a lot quicker. Using only exercise can take years of work so many people give up before they start to see results.


Pexcavation 7 years ago

Thanks for the quick response. I had stumbled onto Dr. Haje's site yesterday and it is a wealth of info and encouragement even for someone as old as me (38). I think I will fashion a brace like the Dr. Haje one and reel in my flared ribs although I will be guessing as to how tight to maintain the brace and how far to bring the ribs in. I am currently lifting weights 4 days/week and am really motivated. I did notice someone posted a little info at various blogs that you may or may not have seen:

Here are a few things you can do to improve your pectus if you do not want surgery.1. You can get the vacuum bell (made in Mannheim, germany) but pretty easy to get. look up Dr. Klobe. Pro's= Helps most peoples chest return to a more normal state. Con's= doesn't work for everyone and it leave a reddish pigment on some peoples skin but that goes away.Here's a WIKI on this 2. Some things you can do with your work outWhen you do your ab routine put a regular belt (one that cannot loosen as you do crunches) around the area where your ribs protrude and make sure it is level all the way around your body. This will put your body in great posture and will enable your upper abs to benefit a workout. You can expect to see results in about a month I'd say take a picture of yourself to compare in a month. You will feel your upper abs sore as hell probably for the first time within the first or second workout. 3. Do bridges, the thing they made you do when you were in like 3rd grade when you put your hands next to your head an bow your body up. This will stretch you muscles and help with gains and for some reason helps really well with PE and your back muscles. (MAKE SURE TO HAVE SOMEONE HELP YOU YOUR FIRST FEW TIME YOU CAN HURT YOURSELF VERY EASY DOING THIS) do about 15 of these a day holding for 10 seconds. One of the most important upper body muscle groups to work is your back. Training your lats gives you a wider appearance from the arms down. It's all about depth. The wider your upper body is, the less obvious your pectus seems. Don't get me wrong, your haller index (depth of the dent) won't improve. Having a muscular back also helps force you to stand upright, and we all know what a great posture can do for the appearance of PE.Another very important muscle group to train is your core. Having a slim stomach goes a long way, especially if you have the "pot bellied" appearance often associated with Pectus. This isn't true for all cases, but I've found that training my abs hard along with a very healthy nutrition intake actually helped the appearance of the flared ribs. My theory is that the muscles actually pulled the flared ribs inward.

expectus profile image

expectus 7 years ago from Land Downunder Author

There is some good info there thanks for adding it, and a brace is a good idea, i use a homemade one myself sometimes, remember to start off slow bringing the ribs back gradually you will feel pretty uncomfortable if its too tight i have tried it and i used to wear it 24 hours a day. I tried sleeping with it but if its too tight it just slips off my ribs.

Pexcavation 7 years ago

Many thanks and I will continue to exercise and research as much as I can on this subject.

expectus profile image

expectus 7 years ago from Land Downunder Author

My pleasure, goodluck repairing your chest:) keep me posted if you make any breakthroughs

sunken wall too 7 years ago

hmm any idea how did u make your own belt?? isit just a strap or did u put somehintg else

sunken wall too 7 years ago

hmm any idea how did u make your own belt?? isit just a strap or did u put somehintg else

expectus profile image

expectus 7 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Hi, well i ended up buying a cheap back brace type thing a nice strong one with velcro then got to small rubber pads and put them on the area where my ribs poke out , to help push them in, hope that helps

sunken wall too 7 years ago

ok thanks!

Daniel 7 years ago

Hello, can I ask if even a 21 year old like me can have a surgery?it is too late for me or what?

expectus profile image

expectus 7 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Hi daniel, no its not too late at all I went to see a specialist around that age and he said he can pretty much do the surgery on any age , as its considered more of a cosmetic surgery so there's no reason you cant get it done if its bothering you.

Goodluck , best to get in contact with your nearest orthapaedic surgeon or pectus excavatum specialist

spoonman 7 years ago

hi, anyone know of anybody getting plastc surgery for pe, what surgeons in Australia do this and how much?

expectus profile image

expectus 7 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Hi, i've heard of people getting silicon implants to cover up the dip in the chest, but I would think any plastic surgeon would be able to do that, unless u can talk to a orthapaedic surgeon about it first.

spoonman 7 years ago

hi, thanx for reply, this is the 1st time ive talked to any1 about my pe, im 32. im in the mild/moderate group and want to fix it for aesthetic reasons mainly, although my fitness levels suffer i can live with that, its just annoying when im more exausted than people far less fit than me during sport activities, esp. snowboarding, something to do with the high altitude air makes it worse i think :P. anywho, just wondering what the costs roughly are for uninsured proceedures, im willing to pay for it, i don't want to go through all the hassel and tell the world while im doing it lol.

expectus profile image

expectus 7 years ago from Land Downunder Author

hey, no problem , high altitude probably doesn't help as most of us p.e'ers seem to have trouble taking in full deep breaths due to our pushed in sternums, In australia I think basic medicare would pay for some of it and it would up around the 10,000 mark.

What state are you in as there is a specialist in melbourne dr alex auldist who has been doing the surgery for years I've actually talked to him and he has no problem doing it for cosmetic reasons, he was actually the one who brought the procedure to australia.

spoonman 7 years ago

hey, what proceedure does dr alex do, nuss? i don't think id get that done, it looks a bit full on, and i read older patients' pe might return, that would be a waste of money, sounds like he has a lot of experience with it though. i think an implant would be the go, do you have any info on that?, that would prolly cost around 10G too hey, just like getting a boob job! :D thanx again.

expectus profile image

expectus 7 years ago from Land Downunder Author

hey, yea alex only does the nuss procedure, I think if your looking for a boob job:P you can pretty much go to any plastic surgeon in your area but will be quite expensive.

It should be a pretty simple procedure really, its just like a silicon implant a friend of mine had it done and I think he just went to the nearest plastic surgeon:)

spoonman 7 years ago

Hey, have u seen ur friends implant job, is he happy with it, can u tell if he has an implant?

do u know of any before/after pics of this proceedure anywhere on the net?


expectus profile image

expectus 7 years ago from Land Downunder Author

hey spoonman, yea i have seen it looks normal to me , i think its a pretty simple procedure they just make a cast and insert it.

only site i found that was anything close was pec implant site its pretty much the same thing

hienergybrain profile image

hienergybrain 7 years ago

my little step brother has this, sadly though he wants to play football and his is severe enough that he will have to get surgury before he can even think about taking(or giving) a tackle to the abdomen

expectus profile image

expectus 7 years ago from Land Downunder Author

sorry to hear about your step brother, I was told the same thing about playing sports. Pretty much forget it they said.

I hope he gets the surgery and is able to play football

Sodaht 7 years ago

Here's my Question.

Does it Handicap your Cardio at all? will you not be able to run as fast or far because you can't hold enough oxygen in?

anything like that?

expectus profile image

expectus 7 years ago from Land Downunder Author

some people say yes others say no. depends on how severe it is an mainly about how much it pushes on your heart causing poor blood flow and less oxygen getting to your organs while your running.

its a common thing for people with PE , to complain about a lack of fitness and it can be partly to the fact that we find it hard to take in a full deep breath because of our sunken sternums.

david 7 years ago

expectus, Thanks for all the advice although I do have a couple questions.Im a 15 year old boy, I have severe PE and a pretty big case of flared ribs. I am going to get surgery for my PE (nuss procedure) but I want to know if that will correct my flared ribs?. Flared ribs are also very annoying so I am really hoping that surgery will correct both. Also I have a pretty mild case of scoliosis ( I suspect I got it from hunching over all the time so no one would notice my PE). Will the surgery help with that also?. I cant imagine myself wearing a brace even while I have a bar in my chest.

Thx for the info :)

expectus profile image

expectus 7 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Hi david, getting the nuss surgery to return your sternum to a more normal level will usually result in your ribs also being brought in to a more normal position.

I don't know how much the surgery will help your scoliosis I think you would have to see a spine expert but hopefully you will be able to stand up nice and straight once you have your surgery and fix that aswell.

david 7 years ago

thank you. you have been very informative :)

expectus profile image

expectus 7 years ago from Land Downunder Author

no problem david :) glad I helped

linda 7 years ago

hello i have a just turned 12yr old son that just hit a growth spurt and has mild pe..i had taken him to his dr yrs ago about this and was told that it was more cosmetic than anythin else..well two days ago my son was playin and started to seize up and fell over w/loss of consciousness for about a min..i took him to the hospital and they pretty much did nuthin but said he'd be fine but my feelin is that his grownth spurt has triggered sumthin w/his this possible? i'm takin him to his dr. again to question him as well but i don't know what to think..this was a scary first and i'm worried about my son now.

expectus profile image

expectus 7 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Hi linda, yea those doctors always say its simply cosmetic but without proper scans and tests I'm not how they can be sure the sternum is not pushing on vital organs.

If your son has no other medical conditions that could cause him to seize up the only thing I could think of is a lack of oxygen or poor blood flow do to the sternum pushing on his organs.

Does he have trouble breathing in general? is getting enough oxygen throughout the day and while he sleeps

Kev 7 years ago

I'm a boy in the age of 13 and I have really mild pectus excavatum.My friends can see it and I am very self conscious about it. I also heard it gets WORSE as you age, and I'm also very worried about that too. I really want to put surgery as my last option. Should I purchase a vacuum bell or something to fix it? PLEASE! What can/should I do?!

Thank You.

expectus profile image

expectus 7 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Hi kev, main thing to make sure is that you maintain good posture, most people including myself had poor posture which made our chests look worse.

A vacuum bell is more of a temporary fix unless you are very consistent and even then I believe it would take years, and it can put a bit of a strain on your heart. Best bet is exercises for PE and wearing a posture vest, strengthening core/abs.

breathing exercises, yoga , improving general mobility can help

Trikstik 7 years ago

I have a severe case of Pectus Excavatum and I had to have a surgery when I was 7 to correct it. They didn't want to do the surgery before I was finished growing, but it was REALLY bad to the point that it was effecting my heart and lungs. Now I am 28 and since then I have obviously finished growing, but because I was still growing after the procedure it has sunken in again. Even after the initial surgery I would say mine is still a severe case because it is in a few inches still. I have had issues with it my whole life and I have been looking to get it repaired again. I still won't take my shirt off in public and would one day like to be able to do so without drawing attention.

expectus profile image

expectus 7 years ago from Land Downunder Author

I hear this a lot with people having the surgery done early in there lives, I think because as a kid your not really aware of maintaining good posture and sticking to the post-op exercises the doctors tell you to do.

even with a good maintenance program sometimes you can't do much about it as you get older as it does get much deeper, as it did for myself.

Jessica 7 years ago

Hi, I'm a 20 year old female and I haves severe case of p.e. I've had it my entire life and my dad did nothing to help me. I have been rushed to the ER about 3 or 4 times now for excrutiating pain in my chest and trouble breathing. I just recently found out what it was called and have been applying for SSI and medical assistance so I can get surgery done to correct it. I appreciate your post about P.E it's very informative. Now if I get the surgery will that help my breathing? Also, I would love to have a baby, do you know anything about that?

expectus profile image

expectus 7 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Hi Jessica, yes the surgery will help your breathing as long as you maintain post-op exercises and routines to get the most out of the surgery , a lot of ppl forget this and slump back to where they were before the surgery.

Pregnancy would definitely put a strain on your body and I would be a little concerned about the baby bump putting extra pressure on your sternum making it hard to breath or causing pain. The best thing to do would be go to your doctors and get him to do a full chest scan to see how close your organs are or whether they are displaced or in danger of being damaged.

try these 3 things

1- CT Scan of the chest / chest wall

2- Echocardiogram

3- Pulmonary function studies

these will definitely give you an idea if you definitely need the surgery or not, but if you are getting horrible pain I think surgery may be your only option and I hope your insurance will pay for some of it. goodluck :)

Jessica 7 years ago

Hi, thanks for the info. It's great to have someone to talk to who knows about P.E. I don't have any insurance and I live with my boyfriend. It's a long story, but my mother is deceased and my father dosent want a thing to do with me, so I didn't know much about my chest deformity until a few months ago. It has never caused me much pain but for the past year I have been rushed to the ER for trouble breathing and excrutiating pain. They gave me some pills for a week but that was it and I was told my heart is pushed over to the left and my lung is on top of it. I can't walk up and down the stairs without pain and I always wake up in the middle of the night in tears cuz of the pain.

Jessica 6 years ago

Hi, I'm sorry but I have one more question. I really would like to have a baby, so do you think after the surgery I would be able to have one? Thanks so much :)

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Its very common to have displaced organs my organs are so pushed up against my chest I can see my heart pumping away sometimes. and regarding having a baby I wrote some stuff about it in my previous commment:).

it can be expensive but the proper chest scan can help you understand what is causing the pain and how it can be improved.

Cori 6 years ago

Hello I am 28 and just found out that I have severe PE. Is it normal to not find out until this late? I know that I did not have it when I was younger because I was very active and never noticed any problems. It has gotten much worse over the last two years. Will they do surgery on someone this age? Should I be concerned about heart and lung damage?

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Hi Cori , yea it is quite normal for people not to realize until later I found out quite late in my life too but its clearly noticeable in my younger photo's. Pretty sure they will do the surgery no matter what age because its considered a cosmetic surgery these days.

You shouldn't worry unless you feel pain or breathing problems, and being 28 i don't think your bones will do much more shifting or growing.

Luke  6 years ago

Hello i love the site and will definitly be trying to improve my posture. I don't know if this is a bad question but im a 14 year old boy and i have fairly muscley arms and abs, but my upper chest around my pectus seems very small and i was wondering if there was a way to get bigger pecs without worsening my mild case of pectus. Thanks :)

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Its true that it can be a little more difficult to build big pecs due to PE, i find mostly due to balance problems as PE is very rarely in the exact center of your chest. Mine is slightly to the left hand side.

But its possible with heavy bench work and fly's ,and don't forget upper pecs that everyone neglects. It shouldn't really affect you that much as there is never any real muscle around your sternum so having a sunken sternum doesn't mean you have less muscle or anything like that. you've just to mix it up to induce growth, goodluck luke

Luke 6 years ago

Thanks for the advice :)

kano 6 years ago

Hey,Im a 28 yr old guy and I used to have PE.I had surgery ( modified Nuss procedure)2 and a half yrs ago to correct my PE.2 Bars were used in the operation as I had upper PE as well as lower.I still have the bars in place now,however I don't really notice them anymore.I can work out comfortably. I still have flared ribs even though a separate procedure was used to try and correct the flared ribs at rge time of bars installation.oh Ihad the surgey in Germany with a surgeon who has performed over 700 nuss procedures. That why i decided to go all that way.It really is a big operation and involves a lot of recovery. Any questions ...shoot away

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

very interesting kano i hear lots of people go to germany to get it done, did you ever try and fix your flared ribs with bracing?

Chris 6 years ago

I've had a nuss bar in place for the past 5 years. I'm also highly competitive runner.

I'm wondering if having the bar in my chest could be slowing me down slightly. For example 1%-3% slower. When I breathe in deeply it feels like my chest cavity isn't as flexible with the bar in place making my body work harder. Any thoughts?

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

if your a professional runner I would definitely think it would have some affect on how much oxygen you get and how quickly your muscles tire.

5 years is a long time for the bar to stay in , did they give you a reason for that , most ppl seem to have it in for 2-3 years at the most

Spoonman 6 years ago

hi expectus, has Dr Alex Auldist done many adult nuss jobs? and is it possible to just bypass seeing a GP and getting all the tests done and just make an appointment with Auldist?

i think my PE isn't severe enough to get insurance and i don't have private health care anyway. thx.

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Hi spoonman - not totally sure but its worth asking and i'm pretty sure you don't need a referral just ring his office at the royal children's hospital. If anyone is going to do it would probably be him as he's being doing nuss for around 10 years i think.

as far as the tests, see what dr auldist thinks first, i think medicare may pay for a little portion of it but not entirely sure

Chris 6 years ago

I'm not professional but I do race at a competitive level.

Keeping it in for that long was my choice. After ~3 years it wasn't bothering me enough to take it out. Doc says it was ok to leave in. Now it starting to get more bothersome. Perhaps my running is making it sore.

I'll let you know if my times do indeed improve after I have it taken out.

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

yeaa i guess you can take it out once you have achieved maximum benefit from it, goodluck :)

unkown 6 years ago

hi iam 15 and have mild pe but my parents are not aware iam scared to tell them because they might make a huge deal out of it and think iam some freak how should i tell them?

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Its up to you but your not a freak its not the most wildest deformity out there your sternum is just slightly sunken compared to other people and maybe some flared ribs, some ppl without pe have flared ribs too


Melanie 6 years ago

Hi there. I have a three year old daughter with (I'm guessing) moderate PE. I notice that around her mouth is sometimes tinged blue, but nowhere else. She never complains of any symptoms and never behaves differently,but i just wonder if it has anything to do with her heart not pumping blood as efficiently? Also when is the best age to get the operation done? The poor thing had hip dysplasia and has to have an op soon to correct that so she has already gone through so much, but I just need to know if I should do something for her. Is it a bit early yet? Thanks for your help.

AM 6 years ago


Firstly, thanks for creating this place. So I thought I would share.

I had severe PE that started as mild but developed as I went through the start of puberty. By 14 the severity meant that surgery was my only option.

I was reasonable fit before the surgery but was restricted on what I could do without pain.

I had trouble breathing probably sometimes, pains in my chest and would suddenly run out of energy.

I got the Nuss surgery done when I was 14 (May 2001) by Alex Auldist (was the first girl in Australia, he had only done a couple of guys at that stage).

The surgery is painful, but nothing I’m sure to that to other surgical options. I was lucky that there was no real complications (such as the bar flipping).

I spent a week in hospital and was given painkiller to last a couple of months but by the end of the first month I was only taking them occasionally and by the end of the year I was playing AFL and soccer.

I am now 23 and still have the bar in place.

Some of the side affect for me have been pains in the muscles around the anchors and back pain in the region of the bar.

The bar was made to a size that would fit me now so initially my sternum was a bit higher than normal but other than that my chest looked normal. This is normal to other people. Even though I knew that my PE made me look very different from everyone else, it was still my normal and it has taken a while to fully adjust my thinking. I have in the last few years grown into the bar and the sternum is at a normal height.

I have been doing karate for 3 and a half years now, I compete at a high level and one of my divisions is contact so punches to the chest are common. I wear a chest guard as every female has to, and other than an ache the next day if I get a particularly hard hit or a kick to the side that hits my ribs, I have had no problems.

Although I still have pains etc I highly recommend the surgery, I thank Alex and the power to be that he brought such a wonderful procedure to Australia (If not for him I would had to have the Ravitch surgery).

If you are young I also recommend keeping the bar in until your mid twenties as I believe that it will make the chance of regression less likely as you have stopped growing (this is what Auldist recommend to us).


expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Melanie - it is definitely a bit early to be thinking about solution for her PE most surgeon's don't the surgery on children younger than 10 or so, but you should get her checked out for the blue mouth issues does sound like circulation problems or oxygen maybe , goodluck

Droid 6 years ago

I have P.E. and it is ok i don't have any restrictions it is not very noticable until you actually look...but I loved this website because I a am doing a project on this thanks a lot!!!!!

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Glad it helped you Droid :)

Jacob 6 years ago

Hi, I'm 15 years of age and i'm concerned that i have Pectus Excavatum. My chest seems to "cave in", and my ribs also flare, similar to the picture above.

Originally, i thought my appearance was simply from being underweight. But after reading through many forums, I'm starting to think that unfortunately I have Pectus Excataum.

Unlike other sufferers, I have not noticed any breathing problems. Though I have become very self-conscious of it and don't dare take off my shirt in public anymore. (This is a recent problem, I was not born with Pectus Excavatum).

Are there any exercises you would recommend for me? Back Posture exercises? Gaining weight perhaps?

I have heard of surgical operations that can fix this problem, but they are expensive and appear to have long recovery times, so I don't think surgery is for me.

I would highly appreciate any tips and information, thank you for your time.

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Hi jacob sorry for the late response, sounds like your issue is mostly with posture so you have to try and assess what your spine is doing, is it an S shape, does your bum poke out a bit, and work to correct them with some exercises for example if you give me info I can give you some exercises, but I used to have a very curved lower back and back bridges and lower ab exercises help a lot.

really simple exercise i like to do , is just imagine your a soldier in the army stand straight and tall , chest out hands by your sides and just stand like that and breath deeply into the chest.

ML 6 years ago

Hi there I'm really glad to come across this page but also I'm quite worried about my 3 year old son. I had always thought that his chest appearance was due to his slight build...then my dad commented on it and I saw our regular GP (doctor). He thought it was caused due to breathing difficulties and that his ribcage and muscles had gone this way as they were over compensating for breathing and gave him an inhaler. He said he would look at his chest again in a year- there was no mention on funnel chest or anything like that. I thought no more of it until my dad saw a tv program about it last week and said it was called funnel chest. The diagram you have is identical to my son's and as you mentioned he looks very potbellied !! I'm not sure what class he is -mild/moderate or what...I guess I will take him to my doctor again next week with some of this web info and see if he can get us referred to a specialist who would know and can classify?? I'm not so worried about the asthetics but am v.worried about lungs/heart etc.....please would you have any advice or who can classify him...we are in Northern Ireland. Thanks so much M

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

ML - hi , usually a GP can assess your son's chest and tell whether or not he has PE. It should be pretty easy to determine and if he has it you have to look out for any sort of chest pains or breathing problems. It usually won't cause much trouble unless it is especially deep.

You can also get a scan to see if there is any internally pushing on surrounding organs (heart/lungs)

Jon 6 years ago

I was born with Pectus excavatum, had it fixed when i was 4. Don't really remember much about whe

Jon 6 years ago

the symptoms of P.e. because i was so young. 15 years later i've been experiencing back and chest pain in my left side. Echocradiogram revealed no heart damage, but my heart is compressed to the left, and slighty enlarged. I believe the enlargement is due to all the physical activities i do. I really want to have the surgery redone, maybe i wont have this pain.

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

If your experiencing pain from the sternum pushing on your heart then surgery will definitely help if you are prepared to undergo it again

Jon 6 years ago

thanks for your time, ive been to 3 specialists. they all said its optional, and my insurance will cover the surgery. Is there a link between anxiety and p.e.? i have pretty bad anxiety attacks.

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Hi Jon, it is very common to have low self esteem and anxiety issues when you have PE, due to no being able to take your shirt off at the pool or generally feeling different.

It also affects your posture as people with PE tend to slump over to hide there sternum and end up doing more damage and making there PE look worse.

Jon 6 years ago

Yea see im in great shape, so the shirt off factor doesn't bother me. i guess its just the displaced heartbeat and i feel like i always feel my heartbeat. that's when i tend to get anxiety. so you've been nussed?

Dorothy 6 years ago

Thank you so much for putting this up. I have PE and it has gotten worse over the years and I was just wondering how much the surgry cost how long I would be in the hospetal and if I would still be able to play sports afterwards and I am very skinny is that part of PE? i do eat a lot but I still get yelled at by my family because they are convinsed I am anorixic will I gain more weight after the surgry? Thank you again!

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Jon - I know what you mean when I am exercising I can sometimes see my heart pumping against my chest wall feels like i could physically poke it. And I have not been nussed yet saw a surgeon in my area a while ago and he said he was happy to do it for me if i wanted but I was considered moderate.

Dorothy - check out my other hubs for more surgery information but I believe you will be in the hospital for only a short time and can return to physical activity within a month. I don't think it will make much difference for gaining weight really unless its somehow affecting your organs in a way that prevents you from eating lots of food.

what sorts of foods are you eating , maybe you just have a super metabolism and you need to start eating more medium sized meals throughout the day.

Jon 6 years ago

Thanks buddy!!

It's nice to communicate with someone who understands what its like...

God Bless!!!

Dorothy  6 years ago

Thank you so much I eat I guess pretty normaly I eat a lot of vegies an fruits just cause I love um I eat at everymeal witch is usely like a meat a vegie and some sort of starchy food I'll check out your other web sites thank you again!

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Jon - No problem Jon :) all the best

Dorothy - well as long as your eating healthy you should be fine, i used to be the same ate like a horse things i loved and never gained weight just upped my protein and carbs in each meal and eventually put on weight but no point carrying excess baggage :P takes more energy to lug it around

Justien 6 years ago

Hi.Im Justien and i am now 13 years old

i always keep questioning my parents abaout my chest

im also observing it when im just 8 when i go older my chest go depper and depper

And then i tell my mom about this because im scared

you know my mom is nurse and he said to me its PECTUS

im shock beacause this kind of.....never mind


Spoonman 6 years ago

Heya I heard Dr Auldist has retired and he is now referring people to Dr Crameri, have you heard of him? and whether or not he does adult nusses? What surgeon did see a while back that was happy to do it for you? a lot of people are recommending Dr Scharr in Berlin, say hes the best in the world, but its really expensive. Does medicare cover anything in Aust.?

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Justien - well first of all how severe do you think your PE is? if it is severe there are surgery options otherwise you can try fixing it with exercises but it can take quite some time. There are other options like implants, bracing and vacuum bell.

I didn't know Dr Auldist retired, he is actually who I saw a while back, I will look into Dr Crameri, I also hear good things coming from german surgeons , and I do believe you can get some money back with medicare but not a lot

Paige 6 years ago

Hello my name is Paige I am 14 years old and I have pe and my doctor hasent said anything about surgry for my pe and it isn't to bad but I have recently relised that on the left side I have a dent it is to sharp but i can see it and my right side doesn't have it. is this normal i don't know if it is or not I don't know if all kids have dents or not cause I have not really thought about it and all so it all pe the same like I know there are better or worse cases but mine is really long and about middle deep i do not know if there are different kinds that make you have it short and shallow or long and deep or short and deep or anything I hope I am making sence if I'm not I'm sorry and I want to thank you for putting up this website.

Paige 6 years ago

I'm sorry I should have said that i have pe and a dent on my left side,it is more my ribs than anything else I guess I'm sorry for not making more Sence before and thanks again

ladybug 6 years ago

I am desperately searching for a surgeon to do the Nuss procedure on my teenage daughter who has moderate pe. She plays sports but cannot take deep breaths, and is beyond exhausted after playing. Her chest is deformed (besides the sunken pectus) in that the right side of her upper ribs juts out whereas the left does not. Finding an expert surgeon who accepts my insurance has proven quite impossible. I am in New York. Can you recommend anyone in my area?

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Paige - hi sounds very normal for someone with PE, and the dent you have are flared ribs and depending on how centered or left/right your PE is positioned your ribs will stick out more on one side. For ribs what works best posture work , bracing as well as strengthening abdominal muscles.

ladybug - check out for more doctors listed in your area all I could find was

New York City

Dr. Charles Stolar

Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian

Columbia University Medical Center

3959 Broadway 212 North

New York, New York 10032



Dr. Columbani, John Hopkins

Paige 6 years ago

Thanks a lot! I hope I can just were the brace and not get surgry because my mom was thinking about it and mabey I can run the brace idea by her by any chance do you know how much they cost? Thanks again!

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

they are pretty cheap, just look for a posture vest that also has a strap around the rib area to bring it all in while fixing posture.

You can find them online or some health stores or chemists, it can make a huge difference to posture and inturn your pe, goodluck Paige :)

Paige 6 years ago

Thanks so much for the help before but I have another question for you dose shoulder and back pain have anything to do with pe because I have had shoulder pain for awhile and that's what my mom thinks it's from I haven't told her about my back yet because I really don't want for her to go to a doctor all worryed and then have nothing wrong now both my mom and dad have back and shoulder pain but they never had it as a kid they never had it intill a few years ago because don't tell um I said this but old haha! But is my back and shoulder pains to do withPE?

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

it could be related to pe but its hard to tell , probably to do with posture as well. try this exercise

stand up straight and let your arms relax and drop by your sides, which way are your hands tilted, in towards each other or facing out. this can be a good indication of bad shoulder posture

Paige 6 years ago

They face tords my back is that bad? The palms of my hands are facing my back I mean I try to have good posture but after awhile it hurts like it's idk how to explain it but very unnatual feeling and uncomfterable. I really am gratfull that you put this up and have helped me out so much.

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

I know what you mean by forcing good posture it can sometimes be painful or comfortable because your body and bones are so used to sitting in a certain position, a normal posture feels weird at first you just have to change it gradually.

Spoonman 6 years ago

Hi, a friend on another forum shared this, just thought I'd put it here too.


PECTUS EXCAVATUM or PECTUS CARINATUM, repair or radical correction of (Anaes.) (Assist.)

Fee: $1,351.75 Benefit: 75% = $1,013.85


PECTUS EXCAVATUM, repair of, with implantation of subcutaneous prosthesis (Anaes.) (Assist.)

Fee: $720.55 Benefit: 75% = $540.45


STERNAL WIRE OR WIRES, removal of (Anaes.)

Fee: $260.25 Benefit: 75% = $195.20

Bob :P 6 years ago

Hi im 15 and i just found out that i have a very mild case of pe after an internet search. (Self-diagnosed, no serious problems watsoever, except my self confidence:( ) Anyway, i was wondering if improving my posture would significantly improve my condition? I have a slightly indented sternum and significantly flared ribs. Any chances that i could look normal without surgery?

Bob :P 6 years ago

Hey one more thing. When i sit up really straight and push everything out as much as i can,(mostly my abs, its hard to explain) it masks the condition almost completely :P. also, i have VERY defined clavicles(i think its the clavicle, the bones that start from the shoulder and almost meet at the base of the neck, about an inch apart)bony shoulders as well. Could this simply be adolescent boniness? it really bothers me.

PS: Where my clavicles almost meet at the middle I have little round bony tips. u can see it on some really skinny actors/actresses but ive never seen them as defined as mine.

Bob :P 6 years ago

OOOONE more thing. It's easy for me to maintain my posture if i concentrate on it. I know I'm lucky compared to some ppl but I'm still very self-concious. Thanks a bunch!

Luke 6 years ago

Hey expectus, i respect you a lot for creating this site. I want to someday reachout to people with pe too.

Im 17 and i have a moderate case which doesn't effect me enough to get surgery for medical reasons, only vanity. I have somewhat of a 6 pack, but the ribs kind of limit my abdominal muscle abilities. And this is weird but, if i stand with my right side parallel to a mirror, it will look like my chest is normal, but if i do so with my left side, my rib sticks out. I wante to know how exactly a brace would work, and if it would push my ribs in so i could develop ab muscles built all the way up

to my "dent". I want to keep my body natural and deal with the pectus but make it as built as possible. The ribs are the main issue.

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Spoonman - thanks for the information spoonman very useful :)

Bob - There is a chance you can look normal without surgery and because you say you have mild PE, i think posture and fixing the flared ribs will show dramatic improvements, for flared ribs you can try braces/corsets otherwise general core strengthening exercise can help as well as yoga exercises and stretches.

I know what you mean about it affecting your confidence its very normal for people with PE, I can do the same thing with my abs and it just shows its possible to get everything back to its original position it will just take time.

It sounds like you have low body fat, or perhaps you have rounded shoulders which is making it look more pronounced. This is pretty normal and nothing to worry about , its actually a good sign your not overweight. you can wear a posture brace if your find yourself falling back into bad posture.

Luke - I know what you mean about ribs wrecking the 6 pack look , when I tense i get the same look, but the aim of the vest is pretty much to push your ribs back into a normal position and its very normal for one side of your ribs to be more flared than the other due to the position of your pe.

A posture brace I think is the only option for flared ribs, and I know a few ppl who have fixed there ribs but with constant 24/7 wearing for around 3 months so its a very slow transformation and it can be hard to stay motivated. Remember to check with your doctor when undergoing anything like exercise/vests because technically I am not allowed to give advice , goodluck Luke :)

Luke 6 years ago

Thanks a lot for all your help expectus, you've helped a lot! I might try a brace, i hope it would make both side angles look normal. I wanna try get nice abs and maube build up like billy zane lol. I have good posture currently but sitting down sometimes i tend to collapse my stomach to where i look chunky a nd have a temperary red line across my belly button. This is pretty random, but i think that might be effecting my ribs. Thanks again! :)

Bob :P 6 years ago

Thanks for the advice expectus. :)

James 6 years ago

Hi all. Just wondering where I could purchase a brace as I have pretty bad rib flare and would like to do something about it.. Thanks in advance

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Luke - yea its probably best to keep an eye on your posture , I do the same thing too when I sit infront of the computer

James - You can try some of the ones I have listed on this page otherwise anything that covers your rib area will do fine

James 6 years ago

Would you recommend a brace that only covers your ribs and lower back area or one that includes shoulders and upper back? I am concious that the ones that cover whole back might not compress the ribs as much but I am not sure and would like your advice. Thanks expectus

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

James - I would go for one that covers everything nothing worse then letting something lagg that you just have to go back and fix later on.

Eliseo 6 years ago

hi i have mild P.E and it not noticeable i used to not care about it....but now i plan on joining the army and i would like to know if there is any restrictions for this and if is there any way i can improve he appearance so this can slide by...ive never had any problems with my breathing or dizziness or anything at only 14 and plan on joining at age 18

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

If you don't have any problems with your fitness I think you should be fine getting into the army, I know of guys who went to the army with pe and came out with it totally fixed due to all the posture work and exercise they put you through

Ben 6 years ago

Hi, I've noticed that sometimes my pectus is noticeable under the clothes I wear. As in, there is a visible dip between my pecs sometimes. Is there a way to conceal this? Maybe something I can wear over my chest to make it seem flatter? BTW, your site is awesome. Very informative.

Aj 6 years ago

We noticed my son's pe as soon as he was born. The dr said this was prob what it was...but can't do anything at this age. We (& Dr) kept an eye on it & did MRi at age 6...his Haller Index was then 3.5. Now at age 10, it's 6.8. He has not had many difficulties w/ it, just a little pain now & then & kinda breathes funny from time to time. He is scheduled for surgery in a few weeks. NOT looking forward to this, but we're told in the long run this will be the right decision. FYI-his father has a slight indentation, & his grandfather also had it.

Those with young children w/ pe...For insurance purposes, keep it monitored by a dr so all changes are recorded. Our ins gave us the go ahead for surgery b/c of how much worse it had gotten & the recorded visits & tests form the dr's.

Justin 6 years ago

I'm not sure if you are a doctor but I would like a second opinion from somebody familiar with PE. I am a 16 year old male with PE. The depth of my PE is 4 centimeters. The cardiologist said it was very mild PE but I experience all of the symptoms of severe PE. If I take a deep breath i have sharp pains in my sternum and if I lean back while holding my breath I nearly pass out. What would you do in my situation?

Canonxx 6 years ago

hey i really like the info! .im actualy 17 years old and have a pectus that is pretty deep but my doctor said i have a bone structure like a work of art . usualy the pectus will be in the dead center but mine is off to the side giving a rather large aort of bone cage for my heart and the perfect amount of room for my lungs ,i have been bplaying soccer for 13 years straight and also skateboard everyday,never once have i had breathing issues and my doc also said im just about done growing in mass so i just have something cool to show off haha:P ,i used to have issues showing it off but now i don't even care at a water park or anything, pluss i think its cool ^^. i use it as a cupholder when i laydown some timess rofl

James 6 years ago

Hi expectus. Just enquiring about the rib compressor and cup - have you had any experience of this product and would you recommend it? Thanks in advance

Nathan 6 years ago

i have a moderate/severe case of PE and im only 13 and i found that by taking neither sympathy or for lack of better terms BS about i found that it helped me be strong enough to survive middle school with my PE plainy visible even with my shirt on

Luke 6 years ago

Hey, another question for you i was wondering if the way i sleep can affect my pectus. i.e sleeping on my side may be compressing my chest??? thanks :)

Natalie 6 years ago

i'm a 16 year old girl and i've had this "deformity" since I was born. I am very athletic, 5'6, 120 pounds so i'm pretty average for my age. (if anything i'm more on the skinny side) Anyways, i hate having PE and i badly want to get it corrected. I'm pretty sure I have a medium case, i don't really talk about it with my doctors they say it's not a big deal. I can fit my fist in the middle of my chest. I don't think i experience any problems. But sometimes i have trouble taking deep breathes and it feels like i cant get enough air. I am extremely self conscious and i would feel 1000x better if i would have this corrected. Im concerned about the cost though. Do you have any opinions about this?

Aj 6 years ago

My son is 4 weeks post-op from having the Nuss procedure. He did really well & his chest looks great...he loves to look at it & show it off. Already by the second week, he was out running around (doing way more then he should), but he feels great!

Good Luck to you all!

coogie 6 years ago

cant you just get solid silicone implants for this? would that work? anyone have experience with this? (photos, video, etc?)

Holly Anne Barker  6 years ago

Hi. My husband was born with PE- it was severe and caused chronic illness. At age 5 he underwent the "Ravitch" proceedure. Major invasive surgury. He's 35 now and although still affected by his PE lives a normal life.

I'm writing because we now have a 2.5 year old son and he was born with no signs of PE, but the Drs didn't seem interested that his dad had it and we never had any discussions with them about it. Recently I've learned the symptoms can appear at puberty. Is this true? Is there anything I can do now to find out if he's likely to develop PE?

This is a new concern for us, I am just now beginning to research this.

Thanks for the wonderful article & info....

Holly Anne Barker 6 years ago

Sorry, my husband wanted me to also ask: he also has scoliosis - his upper spine is 45 this related to PE, or just coincidental? I can't seem to find anything about this...

Thank you again.

aj 6 years ago

Holly-I had wrote earlier about my 10 yr old who just had corrective surgery using the Nuss Procedure. His was visible at birth. He also has Scoliosis...not sure of the degree, but I had been told these can go together. I don't know if pe can appear at puberty, but in either case, there isn't much you can do about it at 2.5 yrs old. When we had concerns already at birth, we were told there is nothing that can be done at this age, but they would keep it monitored & record any changes (which they did yearly from about 4yrs old on). Does your son have a lot of respiratory issues...colds, etc? Try not to get too worried about it, b/c there's not too much you can do at this age...I would maybe take pictures of his chest every 6 months or so & see if you can see a difference as time goes on (then you also have evidence to show a Dr when the time comes). The dr that did my son's surgery said they don't like to do this surgery any younger than 9-10 in fear that it can re-occur b/c of the growth spurts.

Hope this helps...& try not to let this overwhelm you!

snow 6 years ago

i have it too :( my friends say it's ok but i really hate it :( i don't think i should get surgery since i don't think it's really affecting my health and surgery is would be a stupid risk if it's just for better looks but still :( i ve got enough confidence to enjoy swimming and stuff at public places but whenever i have a new girlfriend i m so scared she'll think something of me :( (I luckily never had one react negatively about it) If i see some pictures on the internet i realise it could be far worse but it's still bad enough to clearly see it :(

expectus profile image

expectus 6 years ago from Land Downunder Author

sorry for the very delayed replies

Ben - apart from wearing a thick winter singlet i'm not sure that there is much you can do or go for a t-shirt with a stiff print on the front chest area

Justin - the best thing would be to get an appointment with a thoracic or orthopedics surgeon in your local hospital and get a scan to find your haller index.

Canonxx - good to hear its working for you, mine is also off center and I have fixed it quite a bit with posture and exercise.

James - I have used a vacuum bell type advice but it wasn't made it to fit so it didn't work that well, you have to find one that matches your pe.

Nathan - I agree with you it only becomes a big deal if you make it a big deal, to be honest its one of the most minor deformities out there and learning to deal with it is the most important thing.

Luke - the way you sleep can affect your pe, as the way you sleep will affect your posture in different ways, for example lying your back its recommended to have a pillow behind your knees and when sleeping on your side its recommended to put a small pillow between your knees to keep your spine in a neutral position.

Natalie - I think you would definitely feel better if you had the surgery, and if you find breathing a struggle then it might be a good idea to get a chest scan and see if the sunken sternum is in any way pressing on your heart or lungs. Many women opt for a silicon implant to fill the middle of the chest which can solve being self conscious.

Aj - good stuff, I'm glad the surgery worked out :)

coogie - there are some photo's of this , i will take a look for them but you can find them through google

Holly Anne Barker - even at 2.5 years old there should be some sign of it if even when I was around that age you could tell I was going to have pe, makes sure he maintains good posture. but by puberty you should definitely notice it otherwise he's in the clear

Scoliosis is not related to Pe, but it can definitely make it look worse and make it harder to repair

James 6 years ago

Thanks expectus

P.T 6 years ago

Can you get abs if u have pectus excavatum?

oxi 6 years ago

Hey expectus, good stuff you put out there i have few questions:

I got pectus exvacatum and it impairs my breathing not just for physical but also everyday life.. I can't sleep and i don't feel i am getting enough oxygen, should request ct scan or something asap? I have been ignoring and living a miserable life for sometime now but i think this is not the way to live. Thanks

Josh 6 years ago

I was trying to get into the Navy, and that's when I found out I have p.e. If any of the kids here are reading or wondering, it's an automatic disqualification. You can get a waiver for it, but they rarely grant them. I am very active, and can easily pass any of the physical requirements for the Navy Seals at a competitive level, but was still denied my waiver.

Lyrinda 6 years ago

I under stand how all u pe ppl feel my 17month old son has pectus excavatum

boysrule 6 years ago


My 4 year old son has P.E. at this stage it is probably only mild to moderate.

Would be interested to know who the specialist Heather was referred to with her son, as I too would like a baseline to compare with as my son grows and develops

For those women asking about pregnancy - I had severe P.E and this was corrected when I was seven for health reasons (pressure on my heart and lungs. I am now 39 and have had 3 healthy little boys, all over 8.5pounds, with no problems (alas one with P.E). I would discuss it with your doctor but not let it hold you back from having children.

Aaron 6 years ago

I use a brace designed by LaceIT, and it has helped a LOT with my rib flaring. I found out from other websites that gave pretty good reviews about it., for one. I got it from

expectus profile image

expectus 5 years ago from Land Downunder Author

P.T - yes you can have abs if you have pectus excavatum, but the upper ones may look a bit strange if you have flared ribs. My flared ribs actually make it look like i have thick upper abs. and as always low body fat for lower abs :).

oxi - sorry for the late reply oxi, a ct scan would be a good idea, and or perhaps an oxygen sleeping test just to check how much oxygen your getting during sleep and whether its affecting your body and recovery.

Josh - i'm sorry to hear that Josh, i've heard of people with pe joining the army and it helping a lot to correct it, was it due to physical appearance or medical tests that they ruled you out?

Aaron - looks very promising, one thing i have noticed with these types of braces is that you have to be aware of how this pressure on the ribs affects upper body posture and lower back.

Chantelle 5 years ago

Thank you so much on this article. I have moderate P.E. Where I have been described as having a barrel chest by medical professionals.

My mother picked up that I had P.E when I was a toddler and she used to take me to specialists and make a fist and press it against my sternum to show how big the dent was.

One of my fondest memories was getting out of a pool and laying on the warm cement and leaving an imprint where my chest didn't touch the cement lol.

As I'm in my mid 20s I now am wearing corests which I actually love because it makes me feel confident. I find when I'm wearing the corsets I can breath normally, and my husband is coaching me on breathing deeper.

This past summer I actually worked up the courage to wear a string bikini and you know what. I didn't feel self-concious.

sarah 5 years ago

hello expectus i have mild pe. ive been doing pull over for 5 months and i see a huge difference as well as from posture correction before i didn't use to see the upper abs when i stand straight they were sunken in but now i see them but a bit sunken in from flared ribs.when ive done pull over in the beginning i felt the sternum pushing out but now i just feel the rib cage expanding because the sternum got pushed out to the max but when i flex my stomach i feel the sternum a bit going up to the normal position that's while doing pull over, even while not doing pull over when i flex my sternum and ribs goes to normal position do u think training core muscles will help to fix flared ribs as well as push the sternum out? thx for the help expectus.

sarah 5 years ago

forgot to tell that i don't have flared ribs but the sunken sternum showing that i have flared ribs but when i pull the sternum out when breathing deeply i don't have flared ribs thx for ur help i love u

expectus profile image

expectus 5 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Chantelle - thanks for the great comment Chantelle, I'm glad your working on the deep breathing and your enjoying high self esteem :) so many people with pe let it stop doing what they love and wearing what they want to

sarah - core exercises will help, but a vest or corset will help to bring in flared ribs more permanently

Matt 5 years ago

Where can you buy a brace?

expectus profile image

expectus 5 years ago from Land Downunder Author

you can buy a brace from amazon, some chemists/pharmacy's or online

Darcy 5 years ago


so I'm 15 and in HS. I have PE and flared ribs. The flared ribs are pretty bad :( there isn't a person in my school who hasn't said "wow look at your ribs poking through your shirt, your skinny" or "eat something" I am small for my age I'm 92 pounds and around 5 foot 5. I just can't stand my ribs anymore! I have a posture brace and I wear it everynight (it even has the strap around the frount) but it's nit doing anything. I ran cross country (first year as a freshman :) and I did great in it. Made jv and regionals so I joined track (indoor and out) but I feel different now while running like I get the side cramps a TON easier than I did before so idk if that's PE or not. But I feel like a freak. I have no chest muscle at all. During weights most freshman girls are pressing the bar but I'm no where close to that (again s PE Or not) I wanna know if that's what's causing my horribleness at sports (no breath Ect.) and I'm dreading summer coming. I picked out this super cute bikkni but what HS girl wants to go to a pool party with guys and have them see your freaky chest hole?? Non. If I get the surgry how long will I be out?? Can the bar flip out of place? Can you feel it when if it does? I heard some people get a bump after?

-thanks in advance :)))

Brittany 5 years ago

I'm getting the nuss procedure done in about a month and a half and im very scared. im 14 years old and i only have a holler index of 4.3 but the dr recomends surgery. Do you know how painful it is? because i am really scared of [ain. i hate it! so any encouraging notes would be good...but also how bad is the pain?

piero 5 years ago


aj 5 years ago


My 11 yr old son had the Nuss done last July. He did fantastic..they have great pain meds. As for the pain, I was worried about it too for him, but then realized that the Drs & nurses aren't going to let you be in a bunch of pain..& I was right, they took good care of him. And if you'd ask my son, he'd say it wasn't that big a deal. He was up running around (against dr rules;) 1 week post op!! Not to mention you can barely tell where his incisions are. It all worked out very well & I wish you all the best!!

DePuy Pinnacle Lawsuit 5 years ago

I've read that those with Pectus Excavatum will have some of their internal organs displaced like their heart or their intestines.

I don't have a pigeon chest, but have my own share of disability. I personally have had a DePuy Pinnacle hip implant in the past after a doctor had persuaded me to take up surgery. What's bothering me now are the ongoing lawsuits and complaints filed by those injured with the Pinnacle device. I'm still learning and reading more about its updates found on

What are your opinions on the complaints filed by those injured by the Pinnacle device?

Elle  5 years ago

I have this in a moderate to severe form (I am a girl fyi) and I'm 18 and run long distance varsity cross country and track. The doctors are amazed my body adapted, but I'm still terrible at sprinting :)

Brittany 5 years ago

Aj and anyone whod like to read this-

It is now 3 weeks post operation and you were right aj, the pain was maintained amazingly. i went into this surgery so scared and freaked out, and id never admit it to anyone else, but i honestly thought it wasn't bad at all. there were times where i felt pretty terrible but it was npthing the medicine didn't cover. honestly the worst part for me was when they put medicine through my I.V fast...that really hurt my arm. Besides the obvious soreness im feeling great now and im soooooo glad i had this done my doctor and nurses are amazing and i seriously recommend this surgery if you need it! don't sit around and wait because that will make it worse :)

Izzy 5 years ago

im a 13year old girl I want to do the surgery but my mom is afraid something will go wrong if they put the bar in me what should I do.

Roy 5 years ago

I' m 29 Thai .and I had P.E. When i was a boy i have never shy to take of my shirt and play with my friends. I can do many activity like others. I feel like a normal person. 2years ago I has a girl friend . She is a doctor. She try to help me many way. I met many doctors. the first is heart doctor. I'so lucky my heart is shift to left so the P.E. Is not effect to my heart. The 2nd doctor is genetic doctor be cause the P.E. Is ones of symptom of Mafan syndrome. I'm lucky again i'm not Mafan but I was detected I have got a scrolliosis. That is a cause of my right shoulder a little bit higher than the left. Sadly it's extremely effect to my lung more than the P.E. But I don't worry about it much. I just need exercise .

Pippa 5 years ago

My daughter had moderate to severe PE where her right ribs were curved inwards and growing back under. It only appeared when she started going through puberty and the older she got the worse the condition became. This affected her breathing and we consulted a dr when she started having heart pain. She also has scoliosis. She had the bar inserted in December 2008 when she was 15 yrs by Alex Auldist. She had some complications after surgery with a lung infection which needed more surgery and a drain to clear the fluid. She had chest and back pain on & off during the two years that the bar was in place. She had the bar removed in January 2011 by Joe Crameri. Her ribs on the right side have sunken inwards a little where they have overcompensated from being pushed outwards. Even so she is very happy with the outcome and no longer finds breathing difficult which was the reason she had the surgery in the first place. The reason I am writing is because she still suffers severe chest (around her sternum) and back pain (8 months post surgery) on and off and I was wondering if anyone else had pain once the bar was removed.

Martin 5 years ago

This post helped a ton, and I can 100% relate, Im 15 and i have a moderate case of PE and it has definitely affected me over the years. Whenever I'd be playing sports or hanging out with friends I'd be embarrased to take of my shirt for games of Basketball etc. Now that im a bit older I can say that I've learned to deal with it and exactly as you said, just simply blowing off onlookers who stare at you like you're from another planet(which happens often) It still sometimes hard to deal with being different and being looked at weird but with age comes wisdom and I think I've been learning slowly to deal with it and not be embarrassed. Nonetheless, Great post!!!

expectus profile image

expectus 5 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Pippa - I know a few ppl who have gone through the same thing, with quite a bit of post op pain but they worked through it with stretches and exercises to strengthen chest and back muscles which we were overstretched and weakened during the surgery.

Martin - good to hear it Martin :) yeaa its really up to you whether its going to bother you and I know its hard to push through but in the end its not the most unusual deformity and we cant all be part of the herd, baaah :P , all the best

Crazy DUDE 5 years ago

I have Pectus Carinatum. I started noticing it back in 6th grade and got worse by 9th grade... anyways I've been lifting weights since 5th grade, chest got bigger, abs got tighter, and now I'm in 12th grade benching 280 weighing 140 and only 5'3" lol my sternum is really flexible now! I can shoot objects out of my chest! I can be either Evcavatum or Carinatum depending of how i flex my abs! people get so freaked out that i can shoot objects out of my chest sometimes up to 8 feet! My sternum looks normal now with the occasional bulge from falling asleep on my side by accident. I thank GOD for my deformity it has given me a great talent. :)

John 5 years ago

I have a mild PE, but the annoying feature is the flaring ribs right below my chest. I started working out in a gym recently and I figured out that my chest muscles will never grow big enough to cover the bumps (visible when wearing a shirt) that are caused by the flaring ribs.

I don't mind the depressed PE so much, but I also heard if I try to treat flaring ribs alone, the sternum may be pushed in even further. Can you please confirm that ?

Do you have any advice to how can I overcome this issue ?

Regards !

JJ 5 years ago

I have pe and it dips in about an inch what would this be counsedered I have a little bit of the rib thing goin on and completely self-conscious about it too I think I have poor blood circulation cause my legs will fall to sleep if I sit on them wrong but my mom has poor blood circulation too. My chest also hurts some times and it is a sharp pain on the left side of my chest but usualy only when I am stressed out or mad idk if that's serious or not tho I am just curious what I should do about my condition.

5 years ago

great article. i had a pectus for my entire life, and did not realize that it was a problem until i got checked out by a thoracic surgeon. Less than three months after that, i had surgery performed. It was a complete success, as my chest is now completely normal. Before the operation, i had shortness of breath and a constant cough (compression of lungs) which have dissapeared. My pectus was considered severe, which is why i underwent surgery. And to JJ, i'm not sure about the blood circulation or pain, but it would be best to get it checked out by a thoracic surgeon. they will take a CT scan to determine the severity of your pectus. And It seems that you are describing a flare in the bottom of your ribs, which i had as well. it is normal for a pectus patient to have. However, after surgery, the flare in my ribs has been significantly reduced. Hope I could help.

John 5 years ago

m, glad to know you're PE has been fixed !! Did they give you any exercise to reduce flared ribs ?

5 years ago

john- nope, my flared ribs slightly improved instantly after the nuss procedure was performed. Also, the appearance of having a normal chest helps make the flaring less noticeable. I had the same problem as you, the bottom of my ribs would show through my shirt. however, the fixing of the chest pushed pectus out and definitely made the flare less noticable. Since your pe is mild, im not sure if you are able to have the procedure done, but im sure that they have some sort of method of reducing the flare; i would talk to a thoracic doctor or surgeon, as they know what's best if you want to only fix the flare.

John 5 years ago

Thanks for the reply m, well im not really looking forward to conduct a surgery. I just want to find a way to reduce that crap (flared ribs)..Thanks for the advice I might do that :)

Tara 5 years ago

Hello, I have a few questions if you don't mind. My son is 6 and I've noticed over the last 2 yrs or so that his chest is sunken. I just found a picture of a child with PE and it lookes exactly like him. Our doctor has never said anything. Anyway, in June he started doing this weird breathing out quickly thing and we thought it was either due to a change in allergy shots or possibly a tic. He has never stopped doing this,but it did get a bit better for a short time. Now he's doing it constantly again. When this all started he said he felt like he couldn't get enough air,but seemed to play like his wild self. Well, today he had his shirt off and it occurred tome that it's gotten worse. I plan to take him to the doc, possibly even tomorrow if they can fit him in,but hoped to get some insight.


Tara 5 years ago

I just chuckled b/c the picture I found is at the top of this page. Sorry for that. Very informative.

Brandon 5 years ago

Hi I have a two year old son and just noticed when he is breathing it looks like the center of his chest is caving inwards I told my mom and she said me and my other siblings when his age it looked the same my brother even worse she said cuz he's losing weight but I don't know can u tell me how to know forsure or things to notice be for I I bring him to a docter thank you and how do u tell mild from moterate to sever

expectus profile image

expectus 5 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Crazy DUDE - interesting if true :) but I do agree strong abs can definitely help correct pe or pc

John - I don't believe correcting your ribs will cause your sternum to sink further for me they are both involved as the ribs are move back into a neutral position the sternum is pushed out.

JJ - if its causing you pain its probably best to go see a doctor, if it hurts when you are stressed it may just be your sternum pushing on your heart.

expectus profile image

expectus 5 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Tara - sorry to hear your son is having trouble breathing, when he is breathing in quickly do you find he is breathing into his chest or abdomen, if his pe is bothering him and he is trying to breath into his chest he may find it hard to get full breaths due to pressure from his sternum.

expectus profile image

expectus 5 years ago from Land Downunder Author

Brandon - do you notice his chest sinking in when he is not breathing, and does it look the same when he lies flat on his back?

for me as a kid it looked like my chest would sink as i breathed because i had a slight pot belly caused by the sunken sternum

ben 5 years ago

I think I have pe but it is only a little bit of my chest that is sunken and as soon as I tense my chest is completely flat o I have pe

FeelsLikeTheOnlyOne 5 years ago

I have PE. I am 24 and just NOW learned its real name. I was always told it was a something different. I feel sick, and discusting because I am a woman. Can you imagin how many times I have to see stupid woman with bikini tops on and know I will NEVER look like that. PA makes you look fat beacue of the ribs sticking out. I think about killing myself due to this. I have really bad BDD because of my PE. I will NEVER have confidence. I cannot afford getting it fixed.

I feel so ugly and unwanted. I am married, but that is only because by the grace of God I was given a pretty face. I will never feel happy

bishal 5 years ago

hi i am a 23 yr old guy and my left rib slightly protudes out than the right but i think my chest is normal. Can u tell me what my real problem is and what is its remedy??

t.mooney25 5 years ago

Ok so my son is 3 and also has PE. Could this effect his stomach at all??? He don't eat much at all and he says his stomach hurts after he's done.. His belly gets really big some times and looks like its gonna explode..

Katherine 5 years ago

Hello! I am happy to have found this site. I am incredibly worried about my 10 year old son. For a few years now, people have commented about his sternum. It looks like a "dent" in his chest and you can see his ribs are very noticable. I always thought it was just the way his body is! Over the last few months he has been complaining of "rib pains". They happen a couple of times a day and he literally stops what he is doing because it hurts so much. My husband and I thought it was growing pains. I finally took him to the doctor who has refered him to a peadiatrician, but we have to wait 3 weeks to get in. All the research I have been doing points to him having pectus. I am wondering if a child is having this type of pain, if this is a huge concern. He is a very active little boy - plays hockey, football and any other sport. The rib pains seem to be the only thing affecting him. I am tempted to rush him to the ER as I am now really worried. Please comment to help a VERY concerned mom!!

John 5 years ago

Would love some advice to fix flared ribs ... I cannot get them to reduce in their flare.

I tried pull-over exercise using dumbbells but nothing happened :(

Chris 5 years ago

Been noticing it in the past months, i think i have a mild case of it, im 18. Now though, i can feel like an indent in the middle of my stomach when I breathe in. It looks like my left side of my chest is bigger than the other, i have belly breathing. I smoke, does that increase chances of having the sunk chest? And are there doctors in Indiana that can perform the operations?

I been wanting to go to the doctors and im on medicade, but don't want to hear if its really bad or not...want to do it soon.

Thanks for the advice you've gave to many, helps a lot.

Guest 101 5 years ago

expectus thank you so much for keeping up with the posts for so long. after reading threw the extent of Q & A i feel better informed about my PE. Your dedication to the page has not gone unoticed thank you so much.

Ruan 4 years ago

What haller index rating do you consider mild,moderate, and severe? The insurance companies consider 3.4 as severe

Frances 4 years ago

My son just had this surgery on Dec 12 and it didn't go so well the surgeon hit his heart twice on the right side so they had to open heart surgery on him to fix the heart. This was really scary Thank god he is ok but he didn't want this big scar in his chest. But he is thankful to be alive

skwiddaay 4 years ago

At what age does it stop getting worse?

Coolboy95 4 years ago

Thank you for this! Now I can live with the fact that other people out there have it. I was constantly made fun of because of it and not confident.

bobby 4 years ago

what is the easyiest/cost efficiant thing to do to fix pe

Polly 4 years ago

i was thinking of having the nuss done but im really worried if you can do sports with it in. I really like skateboarding, snowboarding and mountain biking but will i be able to do them?

thismommy 4 years ago

It appears that my baby girl (14 months old) has PE. I thought something was a little off with her chest when she was fairly brand new, but didn't really think anything of it until she was at a check up (for suspected hip dysplasia-which I was born with...thankfully she doesn't have that) and the doctor totally freaked out about how she was breathing. She wanted us to go straight to the ER because she was convinced the baby had RSV or something, but I didn't think anything was wrong. My oldest son had RSV at 4mo and you could tell he was sick, but my daughter was not sick. She was just like always. We went home instead to pray and research and eventually google led me to PE. We haven't had her formally diagnosed with it, but I'm certain that's what she has. I think she's absolutely adorable now, but I know that later she'll probably have her own feelings about how she looks. We plan on talking about it when she notices and reassuring her that God made her just the way He wants her, but it's ok too if she wants to have surgery to correct it. I don't think it's super deep at this point. I would guess from her outside sternum to her outside spine is probably about 3 1/2" difference if I put my hand around her. I will watch closely though as she gets older and starts getting really active. She's just started walking now. I do have a question, does PE affect the way you heal from chest colds? My oldest son has a tough time getting over them (he's actually sick right now), but my other daughter and my younger son get through pretty well. My baby hasn't really been sick yet, so I'm a tad concerned about how she will handle something more severe (we all had swine flu in 2009 when my youngest son was just a baby, but he barely sick).


Chris 4 years ago

I wanted to share my story with everyone because this is one of the most helpful PE sites I've ever found.

I'm a 26 year old male and have pectus excavatum that has always caused me problems. I have tried numerous times in the past to get a referral to an expert on the condition to find out what my treatment options are but I am continuously denied. A referral is required by my health insurance provider unfortunately. I have never been given any type of scan other than the x-ray taken when I went to the ER on Wednesday. I have repeatedly requested further testing over the years and I am constantly denied.

I got into my (former) family doctor's office Friday and was flat out denied any type of assistance beyond more pain pills. My problem has been getting worse over the years. It is at the point now where I need some type of intervention from an expert, but without a referral from a primary care physician, I am very much in the dark.

I work out regularly, stretch, do breathing exercises, and a lot of core work. Exercise is the only thing that offers any type of relief. If I go a couple weeks without exercising, my body feels like it got hit by a truck because of the pain in my chest and back.

I really think the problem is that the GPs I've seen simply have no idea what PE is. Friday, my doctor tried to tell me that it wasn't PE, but rather colitis, which I found out was an inflammation of the bowels (thanks, genius). He proceeded to prescribe more pain pills, same old story.

Has anyone else experienced similar problems getting a referral to a knowledgeable professional? I'm not even hell bent on the surgery, I just want to know what it's doing to my internal organs and I want to talk to a health care professional who can give me some options.


brian 4 years ago

so i have a question that everyone that a lot of people want to know how much will it cost to have PE repaired if you don't have good insurance? Because everyday of my life i cant stand this deformity in the middle of my chest. i love to play football and skate and so much other things i wish i could do. i live in California and the question is..If my Pectus is server will my doctor from the city garentee the surgrey and if my family doesn't have good insurance would i have to keep paying to pay off the cost?

Chris 4 years ago

I always wondered why I had so many stretch marks on my back, now I know thanks to your post.

Jayden 4 years ago

I'm 15 and have a moderate case of Pectus excavatum and didn't really know much about it and I'm glade that there are other people I can relate too

Michael 4 years ago

Hi, I'm 19 and have moderate Pectus Excavatum. I was born with it and have known I had it since about age 5-6. I just recently decided to look it up and figure out what it all completely is. I was just wondering if the fact that I can see my heart beat perfectly in my stomach area is a big problem? Also, I have 3 sets of floating ribs not sure if that is part of this. I also have a problem when I am standing or sitting too long then I lay down and my back has some Excruciating pain, Is this due to my lack of good Posture? Lastly I have been having random bouts of chest pain that occur at any possible time for about 2-5 minutes and it occurs randomly on my chest, sometimes on my left side and sometimes on my right, Is this part of it too? Sorry for all the questions, just trying to find some answers that I can't seem to find online. (Also my breathing has been a problem for years... but didn't kick up until my teenage years which I figure is due to the growth.) Thanks for all the other information though. Was very helpful.

Chase Hinton 4 years ago

I am currently 22 yrs old Iv had pe my whole life it didn't affect me until now and now its so intense I can barly get threw my days I'm iratated and in constant pain I am trying to get in the mayo clinic for the modified ravitch proceder its going to be tough if your kids have it when there 14 yrs old take them to a surgeon get a ct scan if it is depressing the heart get the much less invasive surgery while ur young it won't be nearly as much trouble and pain

Chase 4 years ago

The modified ravitch teqniqe performed at the mayo clinic is number one for pain and recovery if bothering heart and lungs

VictoriA 3 years ago

Hi, i have this and i 23i just find out. Now i get why im thin with a big belly.If i have the surgery,it can help to make my stomach flat?

Pharmd870 3 years ago

Very nice site!

Johna475 2 years ago

Really enjoyed reading ur blog. egckedcdffgd

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article