Pectus excavatum (also known as sunken chest or funnel chest) occurs when the cartilage and bones of the sternum and ribs do not properly form. The cartilage and the bones are instead pushed inward, leading to a "caved in" appearance of the chest. The condition often goes unnoticed until puberty, when rapid growth and development may intensify the appearance of the defect.
Some adolescents with pectus excavatum do not experience any symptoms and many patients will not require surgical correction. When symptoms are present, patients may complain of pain in the chest, back and elsewhere, as well as shortness of breath and early fatigue. This is because pectus deformities can affect function of the heart and lungs. There may also be psychological and social implications because it affects the appearance of the chest wall.
In some patients there can be a genetic component to pectus excavatum. It may be more common in adolescents who have another family member with the condition. In addition, some patients with pectus deformities also have inherited connective tissue disorders such as Marfan syndrome, homocystinuria or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.