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Sternal cleft and pectus excavatum: an overlooked congenital association?

BACKGROUND: Sternal cleft (SC), a rare thoracic malformation, is associated with pectus excavatum (PE) in 2.6-5% of cases. It remains unclear if these conditions are congenitally linked or if SC repair triggers PE. To investigate the potential higher frequency of PE in SC cases, we conducted a retrospective study of our SC patients.

METHODS: We assessed PE incidence, progression, and management in SC patients treated at our institute from 2006 to 2022. When available, we collected pre-SC repair CT scan data, calculating the Haller Index (HI) and Correction Index (CI) and compared them to a selected control group.

RESULTS: Among 8 SC patients, 7 had concomitant PE (87.5%), varying in severity. PE management ranged from observation to thoracoplasty, depending on its degree. We observed a significant pre-operative CI difference between SC and control group patients (p < 0.00001). In the last two SC repair cases, we attempted concurrent PE prevention or treatment.

CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest an underestimated association between PE and SC in the existing literature. SC patients may exhibit a predisposition to PE from birth, which may become more apparent with growth after SC repair. Consequently, PE prevention or treatment should be considered during SC repair procedures.

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