Pigeon chest is the opposite of funnel chest. The breastbone may be pushed forward by the rapid growth of the ribs, resulting in a sharp ridge or prominent central chest, hence its name.
If caught early, it’s often possible to treat these cases without surgery. A custom-made brace is fitted to the chest and worn for 6-12 months, usually managing to restrict a prominent breastbone, while allowing growth of the ribs on either side to catch up. This is most effective in children entering the peri-pubertal growth spurt. If surgery is required, it’s usually best performed as the teenage growth phase is tapering off or finished. If performed too early (before about 16 years), there is a risk that the surgery may have to be repeated.
During surgery: An incision is made across the central chest and then the overgrown rib cartilages are trimmed and reconstructed. The breastbone is divided at or around the second rib, so that its prominent lower end can be set back. A dissolving plastic mesh plate helps to support the bones during the healing process.