Reactive pectus carinatum in patients treated for pectus excavatum

J Pediatr Surg. 2008 Aug;43(8):1468-73. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2007.11.019.


Purpose: The Ravitch and minimally invasive Nuss procedures have brought widespread relief to children with pectus excavatum, chest wall deformities, over the last half century. Generally accepted long-term complications of pectus excavatum repair are typically limited to recurrence of the excavatum deformity or persistent pain. This study examines the authors' experience with patients who develop a subsequent carinatum deformity within 1 year of pectus excavatum repair.

Methods: The authors retrospectively assessed the charts of all patients diagnosed as having a carinatum deformity subsequent to treatment for pectus excavatum at a tertiary urban hospital. We noted age at original correction of pectus excavatum, time from original correction to diagnosis of carinatum deformity, age at correction of carinatum deformity, complaints before correction, methods of repair, postoperative complications, and we reviewed relevant radiography.

Results: Three patients who underwent pectus excavatum repair between January 2000 and August 2007 developed a subsequent carinatum deformity. Two patients initially underwent minimally invasive Nuss correction of pectus excavatum; 1 patient underwent the Ravitch procedure. Within 1 year of original correction and despite intraoperative achievement of neutral sternal position, a protruding anterior chest deformity resembling de novo pectus carinatum emerged in each patient; we term this condition reactive pectus carinatum. The mean age of patients undergoing initial pectus excavatum repair was 13 years (range, 11-16 years). The pathophysiology of this reactive lesion is not well understood but is thought to originate from reactive fibroblastic stimulation as a result of sternal manipulation and bar placement. Patients who underwent Nuss correction initially were managed with early bar removal. Two of the patients eventually required surgical resection of the carinatum deformity at a time interval of 3 to 6 years after initial excavatum repair. In one patient, the carinatum deformity resolved spontaneously. Neutral chest position and absence of dyspenic symptoms were achieved in all patients.

Conclusions: Reactive pectus carinatum is functionally encumbering and a poor cosmetic complication of either the Ravitch or minimally invasive Nuss procedures. Our experience with reactive pectus carinatum introduces the importance of postoperative vigilance even in patients without underlying fibroelastic disease. Examination of the chest with attention to the possibility of an emerging carinatum deformity, particularly in the first 6 postoperative months, is paramount. A telephone call to the patient at 3 months may be a useful adjunct to clinic visits. An optimal long-term result may be achieved through a combination of early Nuss bar removal or postpubertal pectus carinatum repair.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Device Removal
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Funnel Chest / diagnosis
  • Funnel Chest / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal Abnormalities / diagnosis
  • Musculoskeletal Abnormalities / surgery
  • Orthopedic Fixation Devices / adverse effects*
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / instrumentation
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis*
  • Postoperative Complications / surgery
  • Reoperation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sampling Studies
  • Sternum / physiopathology*
  • Sternum / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome