Limb lengthening surgery dates back to the 1950s. Initially, it was developed to help children with limb length discrepancies, improperly healed fractures, dwarfism, and similar conditions.
Eventually, the procedure evolved into an intricate cosmetic surgery that helps adults increase their height or eliminate limb deformities. A limb lengthening operation uses the body's ability to heal itself to create new bone fragments. Its goal is to allow adults to feel confident about their appearance thus boosting their quality of life.
What is Limb Lengthening?
Limb lengthening is a cosmetic surgery, which increases the length of the leg's long bones. It can be performed on the thigh (femur) bone or the shin (tibia) bone.
Initially, the surgery was developed to treat limb abnormalities and deformities. However, as the techniques became safer and more efficient, surgeons started offering this procedure to adults, who wanted to increase their height.
The goal of limb lengthening surgery is to initiate your body's natural healing process, which produces new bone cells, ligaments, blood vessels, nerves, and soft tissue. Depending on your body's healing abilities and other individual characteristics, it's possible to gain between 3 and 6 inches in height.
While it takes a while to fully recover from the surgery, patients return to their normal lives rather quickly. After the procedure, it's up to the patient to follow the doctor's recommendations and go through physical therapy. With a diligent approach to recovery, it's possible to go back to "life as usual" within three months.
Limb lengthening surgery requires highly specialized and advanced techniques. Orthopedic surgeons who perform the procedure have to undergo rigorous training. A surgeon's skills and experience are integral to the success of such surgery.
How is Limb Lengthening Done?
Limb lengthening is a cosmetic surgery, which is performed under anesthesia. During the procedure, the surgeon makes a small incision in the part of the leg to be lengthened. Then, a cut is made through the width of the bone. Once the bone is cut horizontally, a surgeon places the Stryde/Precice nail inside the bone and locks it in place. After that, the incision is closed.
What is the Stryde/Precice Nail System?
The Stryde/Precice Nail system includes a single-use, sterile, intramedullary nail, which the surgeon inserts into the bone by using instruments and locking screws. The second part of the system is a hand-held External Remote Controller that spreads the bone apart with new magnetic technology.
Even though the nail stays in your bone permanently, it doesn't interfere with the healing process. Meanwhile, the controller allows the physician to customize your treatment in a non-invasive manner.
Many orthopedic surgeons prefer the Stryde/Precice Nail System because it doesn't involve installing any external attachments or pins on the leg. The system decreases the number of possible complications and infections while speeding up the healing process.
What Happens After the Limb Lengthening Surgery?
Surgery is only a part of the limb lengthening process. The next (distraction) stage involves using the external remote controller to pull the bone apart gradually. The pulling is done a fraction of a millimeter at a time to allow the body to fill the gaps naturally.
Eventually, the body initiates the new tissue and blood vessel formation, creating a brand new piece of the bone, thus increasing the patient's height. To enhance the healing process, the surgeon can also perform "seeding" by drilling several holes in the bone to uncover bone marrow. This procedure exposes stem cells to speed up new blood, tendon, ligament, and nerve cell formation.
Is Limb Lengthening Safe?
The limb lengthening procedure has been around for the past 70 years. Over the decades, new technologies made the procedure safer and highly efficient for eligible patients.
Am I Eligible for the Limb Lengthening Surgery?
Only a physician can determine whether you are a good candidate for the limb lengthening procedure. For example, people with serious chronic conditions like heart disease or immune deficiency may not be good candidates since the risks outweigh the potential benefits of the surgery.
During the initial consultation, doctors will weigh all pros and cons of the surgery for your particular case. If you receive the physician's and the surgeon's approvals, then proceeding with the limb lengthening surgery is likely to be safe. However, it's important to understand that even though top technologies are used for the limb lengthening procedure, it's still surgery. No matter how small, certain risks are always present.
A Patient's Role
Following the doctor's advice during the preparation, distraction, and recuperation phases is integral to the safety and success of the entire process. Recuperation usually involves doing physical therapy, integrating a healthy diet, and quitting smoking.
Does Limb Lengthening Hurt?
The surgery is done under anesthesia so it doesn't hurt. However, it's possible to experience pain after the procedure. Your doctor will give pain control recommendations and prescribe medication if appropriate.
The recovery process is likely to be painful. For the first week or so, you may need pain meds. However, with time, pain starts to subside and then disappears entirely. You can take medication for as long as necessary to keep you comfortable.
Once the recovery process is over, you will not feel any pain related to the procedure and can go back to normal activities.
Since limb lengthening is a surgery, some pain is impossible to avoid. However, with the right approach to recovery and medication control, pain shouldn't interfere with your daily life.
Limb lengthening doesn't just help people with bone deformities. It can add several inches to your height, boosting self-esteem and increasing the quality of your life.
The limb lengthening surgery involves stimulating your body's natural healing process to grow extra leg bone cells, thus increasing your height. Using the latest Stryde/Precice Nail technology increases the efficiency of the surgery while shortening the recovery period.
If you'd like to learn more about limb lengthening surgery or schedule a consultation with Dr. Shahab Mahboubian, D.O., MPH, a national leader in limb lengthening and deformity correction surgery.