Does your Child have Pectus Carinatum or Rib Flare? Here’s How to Fix It


Has your child been diagnosed with pectus carinatum or rib flare? These conditions can be very concerning for both the affected child and their parents. In addition, the medical terminology can be confusing and overwhelming. However, it is important to remember that you are not alone. There are hundreds of thousands of other people suffering from these conditions in the United States alone. In addition, support groups and trained medical professionals specializing in pectus carinatum and rib flare are always available to support your journey. This guide walks you through the typical processes associated with the diagnosis and treatment of these two conditions. 

It is important to note that the information provided here should be used for guidance only and does not replace the advice of your medical professional. Do you suspect your child has this but hasn’t been diagnosed? Get a free consult with a certified clinician here.

What is Pectus Carinatum?

Pectus carinatum, also known as pigeon chest, is a congenital condition where the breastbone cartilage overgrows, causing this region to stick out from the rest of the chest. It is the second most common type of chest abnormality, affecting about 1 in every 1500 people. [1] This condition is four times as common in males as females [2] and is not typically diagnosed until the pre-teen years (at least 11 years of age), when the symptoms become more evident as a result of rapid growth spurts during puberty. [3] The exact causes of pectus carinatum are unknown; however, there is some degree of genetic predisposition if a family member also has this condition. [4] 

Common signs and symptoms of pectus carinatum include jutting of the chest/breastbone, poor posture, hooked shoulders, shortness of breath during exertion, a fast heartbeat, and chest pain. However, the major issues associated with most cases of pigeon chest are related to appearance and reduced self-esteem. To learn more about Pectus Carinatum, visit here.

What is rib flare?

Rib flare abnormality is a related condition where the lower ribs protrude outward. This becomes more evident when the arms are raised over the head. Rib flare most commonly occurs in combination with pectus carinatum or pectus excavatum; however, it can occur by itself in rare cases. [5] Consequently, rib flare is approximately as common as pectus carinatum. As with pectus carinatum, rib flare usually becomes more evident/prominent during puberty. The primary sign of rib flare is the protrusion of the lower ribs. Rib flare is predominantly an aesthetic rather than a health issue; however, effective treatment is crucial to improve your child’s quality of life. 

What are the treatment options for pectus carinatum and rib flare?

Non-surgical treatment is recommended as a first-line treatment for most pectus carinatum and rib flare cases, particularly in patients with mild to moderate symptoms. Bracing is usually the first treatment method recommended for pectus carinatum and rib flare. The benefits of orthotic bracing include: 

  • Less invasive and more convenient compared to surgery
  • It is often a highly effective treatment method
  • Having a lower risk of side effects or complications
  • The option of surgery is available if patients fail to respond to bracing

In the most severe cases of pectus carinatum, surgery may sometimes be recommended by your health professional. In recent years, less invasive surgical procedures have been developed for treating pectus carinatum, including the Abramson method or modified Ravitch method. These have a lower incidence of post-surgical complications compared to traditional surgical procedures. [6] 

Understanding the different types of braces

Pectus carinatum braces apply moderate pressure (usually 2.5-3 PSI) to the protruding breastbone region, compressing it into the desired shape. Over an extended period of time, this remodels the growth pattern of the breastbone cartilage. Braces for pectus carinatum are most effective when used as early as possible, while the breastbone cartilage is still growing and pliable. During this period, the chest brace is worn for around 23 hours per day, for 6-12 months. [7] Once the breastbone has been reshaped, patients move to maintenance bracing (8-12 hours per day) until skeletal growth ceases. 

The Original Dakota Brace, as shown above, successfully treated thousands of young people around the country in their journeys with pectus carinatum.

Rib flare braces are also available to treat this condition. These work in a similar fashion to pectus carinatum braces, but are applied to the lower rib region. It is important to note that a brace treatment for pectus carinatum will not improve rib flare unless a rib flare brace is also used. Consequently, a combination brace that applies pressure to both chest regions is recommended for children who suffer from both conditions. 

The Rider Brace by Dakota Brace is custom-made under the guidance of a clinician, starting with the 3D scan of the body all the way through design, 3D printing, strap design, and fabrication.

Is a custom pectus or rib flare brace the right option for my child?

To be effective, pectus carinatum or rib flare braces must be consistently worn by your child. Consequently, comfortable braces which are custom-made to your child’s body shape are recommended. While generic braces are available on websites such as eBay or AliExpress, these cheap braces are typically low quality and poor fit; thus are much less likely to be worn consistently. Consequently, they can take much longer for results or could even worsen the condition.

Investing in a high-quality, custom-made brace will save both money and time in the long term. Research has shown that when worn properly and consistently, pectus carinatum braces significantly increase patients’ self-esteem and self-image, improving their quality of life. [8-10] At Dakota Brace, we believe that the right fit is crucial to achieving the best possible results. That’s why all of our braces are custom-designed to be as unique as the young people we build them for. Our state-of-the-art 3D printing technology allows rapid turnaround times, without ever compromising on quality. Additionally, our braces typically cost 3-4 times less than custom braces sourced through your local hospital or doctor.

Ready to restore your child’s health and confidence? Click here to visit our website to get your free consultation and get $75 off your first order!

About Author

LaDonna Dennis

LaDonna Dennis is the founder and creator of Mom Blog Society. She wears many hats. She is a Homemaker*Blogger*Crafter*Reader*Pinner*Friend*Animal Lover* Former writer of Frost Illustrated and, Cancer...SURVIVOR! LaDonna is happily married to the love of her life, the mother of 3 grown children and "Grams" to 3 grandchildren. She adores animals and has four furbabies: Makia ( a German Shepherd, whose mission in life is to be her attached to her hip) and Hachie, (an OCD Alaskan Malamute, and Akia (An Alaskan Malamute) who is just sweet as can be. And Sassy, a four-month-old German Shepherd who has quickly stolen her heart and become the most precious fur baby of all times. Aside from the humans in her life, LaDonna's fur babies are her world.

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A related syndrome in which the lower ribs extend outward is rib flare abnormalities. This is most noticeable when the arms are elevated over the head. Rib flare most commonly occurs in combination with pectus carinatum or pectus excavatum; however, it can occur by itself in rare cases. [5] As a result, rib flare is about as common as pectus carinatum. Rib flare, like pectus carinatum, frequently becomes more noticeable during puberty. The protrusion of the lower ribs is the most obvious indication of rib flare. Rib flare is mostly a cosmetic problem rather than a medical one; however, appropriate treatment is critical to improving your child’s quality of life.

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Rib flare anomalies are a related syndrome in which the lower ribs protrude outward. The arms raised over the head make this most obvious. Rib flare can happen by itself in rare circumstances, but it usually happens in conjunction with pectus excavatum or pectus carinatum. [5] Rib flare thus occurs just as frequently as pectus carinatum. Similar to pectus carinatum, rib flare frequently becomes more obvious during adolescence. The most noticeable sign of rib flare is the protrusion of the lower ribs. Although rib flare is mostly an aesthetic issue as opposed to a medical one, getting the right care is essential to enhancing your child’s quality of life.

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