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Chicken breast or funnel breast

  1. A chicken breast or a pectus carinatum consists of a forward facing breastbone. Usually you can see at a young age that the chest has a shape change. During the growth in puberty it is even more noticeable.

  1. The pectus carinatum is the opposite of a funnel or shoemaker's chest (pectus excavatum). The change in shape of the chest can be more or less pronounced. The abnormality can worsen during puberty. Children with a chicken breast or funnel breast often worry about what their chest looks like. Many are ashamed of their breast shape and would rather wear a covering sweater or T-shirt than openly expose themselves. This is very understandable: teenagers especially do not want to stand out from their peers. A chicken breast does not cause medical problems in childhood. The heart of a child with a funnel chest has moved more to the left due to the dent in the chest. Despite this, the shape does not hinder breathing or circulation. A funnel breast can cause more complaints in old age. Elderly people then suffer from shortness of breath or reduced ability to exercise.


  1. The chicken breast and funnel breast are both expressions of excessive cartilage growth at the sternum. Excessive cartilage formation between the ribs and the sternum pushes the sternum - in the case of a chicken breast - outwards. With a funnel chest, the sternum grows inward. A funnel breast is more common than a chicken breast. The cause of excessive cartilage growth is unknown. Hereditary factors sometimes play a role in the construction of the chest. Chicken breast is more common in boys and less common in girls.


  1. The breathing of a child with a chicken breast or funnel breast is not restricted: lung function tests are actually always normal. It is understandable that the change in shape of the chest can cause a lot of psychological distress for (beginning) adolescents. Many children therefore want urgent surgery. If the situation is cosmetically disturbing, a surgical correction can be done. However, the deviating shape is not corrected until the child is older.

Operation A funnel breast is sometimes filled by a silicone mold under the skin. Another option is to place a metal bar behind the breastbone. This gives the sternum the opportunity to grow normally. After about three years, the rod is removed again. Nowadays, a surgical technique is used in a number of centers, in which a metal brace is placed under the breastbone. Two cuts are made on each side of the rib cage, through which the brace is inserted. A cut is also made higher, so that the position of the brace is checked. This article has been approved by Dr. J.M. de Bont, pediatrician-pediatric neurologist at UMC Utrecht. Last revised September 17, 2018 Don't miss anything anymore?

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