Scoliosis (when it’s not idiopathic) can spring from a number of different conditions, with all kinds of factors potentially contributing to the development of a spinal curvature.
From osteoporosis to Rett syndrome, we’ve discussed many of these underlying conditions here on the Scoliosis SOS blog, and today we’d like to talk about pectus excavatum – another condition that can cause scoliosis to arise.

What is pectus excavatum? 

What is pectus excavatum
Pectus excavatum (PE) is a congenital chest wall deformity that arises due to the abnormal growth of several ribs and the sternum, giving the chest a caved-in appearance. The condition is more common among men than women; it can be present at birth, but sometimes it doesn’t develop until adolescence.
PE typically affects 4-5 ribs on each side of the sternum. The condition’s visibility varies from one case to the next, and there can sometimes be significant asymmetry between the two sides of the chest. 

Symptoms of pectus excavatum

PE sufferers may experience chest and back pain (this is usually of musculoskeletal origin). In mild cases of pectus excavatum, the patient’s heart and lung function may be completely normal, although their heart may become displaced and/or rotated. In more severe cases of PE, mitral valve prolapse (click-murmur syndrome) may be present, and the patient’s physical capability may be limited due to decreased lung capacity. 

What causes pectus excavatum?

The exact cause of this condition is unknown, although some cases of familial occurrence have been reported (suggesting that PE may be a genetic condition). Pectus excavatum is also a common symptom of Marfan syndrome, and many children with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) develop PE due to the diaphragmatic breathing that commonly accompanies that disease.   

How is pectus excavatum diagnosed?

PE is can be diagnosed via a visual examination of the anterior chest wall. Chest X-rays are also useful in diagnosing the condition. If the patient suffers from PE, their X-ray scan will display an opacity in the right lung area. PE is differentiated from other disorders by eliminating other signs and symptoms.

Treating pectus excavatum

Mild cases of pectus excavatum may require no corrective procedures at all. In more severe cases, the patient may require surgery, in which case several tests will be performed (including a CT scan, pulmonary tests, and cardiology exams).
Exercise plays an important role in the treatment of pectus excavatum. Exercising can stop or slow the progression of the condition, as well as helping to improve the patient’s posture.

Pectus excavatum and scoliosis

Pectus excavatum sufferers are more likely than average to develop scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine. This is especially true if PE has arisen as a result of Marfan syndrome or SMA, since both of these conditions can themselves lead to a curvature of the spine.
If you suffer from scoliosis or another spinal condition – whether as the result of PE or not – you’ll be happy to know that the Scoliosis SOS Clinic can help! Our ScolioGold programme is an exercise-based treatment regime that we use to help scoliosis sufferers combat their symptoms and achieve a higher quality of life.
If you would like more information regarding ScolioGold treatment and how this could help you manage the symptoms of your condition, please get in touch with us today!