How does pectus excavatum affect pulmonary function?

Updated: Oct 30, 2018
  • Author: Andre Hebra, MD; Chief Editor: Girish D Sharma, MD, FCCP, FAAP  more...
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Many physicians attribute the symptomatic impairment in pectus excavatum to a decrease in intrathoracic volume secondary to the sunken chest. However, this relationship is difficult to prove because of the wide range of pulmonary function among healthy individuals and the correlation of pulmonary function with physical training and body habitus. The reported pulmonary function abnormalities have ranged from being normal in young patients to restrictive or obstructive defect in older patients with marked defect. Elevated residual volume has been reported. [1] There has been scientific evidence reported that demonstrates shortness of breath upon exertion in patients with pectus excavatum, primarily due to the decrease in pulmonary reserve. [2]

Clinicians have observed that many patients with pectus excavatum tend to become symptomatic during their teenage years or early in adult life. Patients younger than 10 years who have pectus excavatum do not typically experience symptoms associated with shortness of breath.

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