Pectus excavatum (PE) can present at birth or even in utero. One of the most common questions for parents with children affected by PE is, “When should I start seeking medical attention for my son/daughter?”
There are three main points to keep in mind related to this topic:
First of all, as a rule of them, for both PE and other medical conditions, sooner is better. When in doubt, or when there are concerns, seek medical attention.
Second, keep in mind that surgical treatment for PE typically is not considered until at least age 7 or 8. Many parents who bring their child into see PE specialists will be told to return in several years. PE that shows in early childhood or infancy tends to worsen during growth, with peak PE severity reached at maximum height. Symptoms of PE can present at any point along this progression, or even after the PE ceases to worsen. However, seeking medical advice early is helpful, especially as newer treatments are tested and become used that offer help to people with PE at younger ages.
Third, be well informed about PE beyond “PE.” By that, I mean that PE may be associated with many other genetic conditions, such as Marfan’s, Poland’s, Noonan’s, and more. For these reasons in particular, regardless of whether or not your child does not meet age criteria for PE treatment, seeking specialists advice is useful to help rule out some of these conditions. Furthermore, PE is commonly associated with other respiratory conditions such as asthma, and it is important to have your child screened for any such physiologic impacts of PE.