How is cardiac function affected by pectus excavatum?

Updated: Oct 30, 2018
  • Author: Andre Hebra, MD; Chief Editor: Girish D Sharma, MD, FCCP, FAAP  more...
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Posterior displacement of the sternum in pectus excavatum can produce a heart deformity, with anterior indentation of the right ventricle. Early pathologic studies demonstrated this finding, and a series of early case reports included cardiac evaluations for patients with severe symptoms. Angiographic studies have demonstrated the sternal imprint on the anterior wall of the right ventricle.

Several studies have demonstrated limitation of cardiac stroke volume in patients with pectus excavatum, particularly in the sitting, or upright, position. When patients with pectus remain in the supine position (lying flat), no significant impairment to cardiac function is apparent. Further evidence has suggested that operative repair of pectus results in normalization of the cardiac function.

One study assessed cardiac workload in 13 patients with pectus excavatum. [8] The patients were assessed in an upright position on a bicycle ergometer. Findings suggested that, following surgery, most patients could more easily reach the target heart rate during exercise without becoming symptomatic. Many use this observation as substantial evidence that operative repair for pectus excavatum results in improved cardiac function. However, the role of conditioning and subjective response to surgery is difficult to assess.

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