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

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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.

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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.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


MoraG on March 07, 2018:

I've been like this since I could remember I don't remember the last time I took my shirt off infront of people other than family. This has become my biggest insecurity been thinking like this since middle school I am now 17 and stI'll am insecure

DM on July 12, 2017:

Thanks for sharing. Great write up.

Our daughter just recently developed it during puberty. Sometimes her chest hurts and other times it doesn't. Is that normal?

Pharmd870 on January 18, 2013:

Very nice site!

VictoriA on January 03, 2013:

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?

Chase on November 25, 2012:

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

Chase Hinton on November 25, 2012:

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

Michael on September 12, 2012:

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.

Jayden on May 15, 2012:

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

Chris on March 26, 2012:

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

brian on March 20, 2012:

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 on March 12, 2012:

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.


thismommy on March 09, 2012:

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).


Polly on February 25, 2012:

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?

bobby on January 30, 2012:

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

Coolboy95 on January 27, 2012:

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.

skwiddaay on January 25, 2012:

At what age does it stop getting worse?

Frances on December 27, 2011:

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

Ruan on December 12, 2011:

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

Guest 101 on November 30, 2011:

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.

Chris on November 18, 2011:

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.

John on November 13, 2011:

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 :(

Katherine on November 10, 2011:

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!!

t.mooney25 on November 08, 2011:

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..

bishal on November 06, 2011:

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??

FeelsLikeTheOnlyOne on November 04, 2011:

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

ben on November 02, 2011:

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

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on November 01, 2011:

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

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on November 01, 2011:

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 (author) from Land Downunder on November 01, 2011:

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.

Brandon on October 27, 2011:

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

Tara on October 26, 2011:

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

Tara on October 26, 2011:

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.


John on October 19, 2011:

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 :)

m on October 19, 2011:

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 on October 19, 2011:

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

m on October 19, 2011:

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.

JJ on October 15, 2011:

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.

John on October 12, 2011:

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 !

Crazy DUDE on October 05, 2011:

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. :)

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on October 05, 2011:

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

Martin on September 01, 2011:

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!!!

Pippa on August 24, 2011:

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.

Roy on August 15, 2011:

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 .

Izzy on July 08, 2011:

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.

Brittany on June 24, 2011:

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 :)

Elle on May 12, 2011:

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 :)

DePuy Pinnacle Lawsuit on May 09, 2011:

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?

aj on April 29, 2011:


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!!

piero on April 16, 2011:


Brittany on March 28, 2011:

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?

Darcy on March 14, 2011:


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 idk if it'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 :)))

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on March 05, 2011:

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

Matt on January 13, 2011:

Where can you buy a brace?

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on January 05, 2011:

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

sarah on December 23, 2010:

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

sarah on December 22, 2010:

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.

Chantelle on December 15, 2010:

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.

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on December 11, 2010:

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.

Aaron on December 09, 2010:

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

boysrule on November 17, 2010:


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.

Lyrinda on November 15, 2010:

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

Josh on October 29, 2010:

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.

oxi on October 26, 2010:

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

P.T on October 18, 2010:

Can you get abs if u have pectus excavatum?

James on October 11, 2010:

Thanks expectus

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on October 09, 2010:

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

snow on October 01, 2010:

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 :(

aj on September 07, 2010:

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!

Holly Anne Barker on September 06, 2010:

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.

Holly Anne Barker on September 06, 2010:

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....

coogie on September 02, 2010:

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

Aj on August 26, 2010:

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!

Natalie on August 17, 2010:

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?

Luke on August 11, 2010:

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 :)

Nathan on August 07, 2010:

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

James on August 05, 2010:

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

Canonxx on July 31, 2010:

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

Justin on July 21, 2010:

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?

Aj on July 13, 2010:

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.

Ben on July 08, 2010:

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.

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on July 06, 2010:

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

Eliseo on June 17, 2010:

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 (author) from Land Downunder on June 09, 2010:

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.

James on June 07, 2010:

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 (author) from Land Downunder on June 05, 2010:

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 on June 03, 2010:

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

Bob :P on June 02, 2010:

Thanks for the advice expectus. :)

Luke on May 30, 2010:

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! :)

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on May 30, 2010:

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 on May 27, 2010:

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.

Bob :P on May 25, 2010:

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!

Bob :P on May 25, 2010:

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 on May 25, 2010:

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?

Spoonman on May 25, 2010:

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

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on May 12, 2010:

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.

Paige on May 06, 2010:

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 (author) from Land Downunder on May 05, 2010:

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 on May 02, 2010:

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 (author) from Land Downunder on April 28, 2010:

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 on April 28, 2010:

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!

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