For many people of short stature, the desire to be somewhat taller is both natural and understandable. Apart from practical considerations, an increase in height can enhance social status and boost self-respect.
One increasingly popular technique that orthopedic surgeons leverage nowadays is limb lengthening. In this cosmetic procedure, the femur and/or tibia are lengthened to increase the patient's overall height. Upon completion of this procedure, many patients find themselves not only taller, but also more satisfied with their body image.
How Much Taller Can You Become with Limb Lengthening?
In principle, limb lengthening procedures involve the slow distraction (pulling apart) of the leg bones. This gradual pulling process allows new bone to form in the gap, thus increasing the overall height of the patient.
While the majority of patients seek a height gain of approximately 3 inches, the upper threshold for height gain from limb lengthening is about 14.5 cm (or 5.7"). This height gain is accomplished by lengthening both the femurs and tibia to their maximum levels within the bounds of safe practice (about 8 cm for the femurs and 6.5 cm for the tibia).
While it is theoretically possible for limbs to be lengthened beyond this point, serious complications could result from any attempt to exceed these thresholds. Thus, most surgeons will not recommend or perform procedures that involve height gains above 14.5 cm.
Factors Associated with Results
There are several factors that can influence both the overall success of the procedure and the amount of length increase that is achieved. These factors include the following:
- Surgical considerations. Surgeons have to look at such factors as the type of osteotomy, timing and rate of distraction, and stability of fixation in order to successfully complete the limb lengthening process. Precice, or the new Stryde, an implantable intramedullary rod (nail), is commonly used as part of the process, and typically stays implanted within the patient for 1 to 2 years.
- Physical rehabilitation therapy. In order to combat knee and joint stiffness as side effects of the lengthening procedure, many patients will undergo a strict regimen of physical therapy on a daily basis. The rehabilitation phase generally lasts from 1 to 3 months, and can help to maintain the patient's range of motion while preventing contractures.
- Bone/soft tissue limits. Not only the formation of a patient's bones, but also his or her associated soft tissue sets the acceptable lengthening limits for the procedure. Exceeding the thresholds dictated by bone and soft tissue can lead to serious complications and long-lasting post-operation pain.
For patients of short stature that are exploring ways to be more comfortable in their social circle and boost their self-esteem, limb lengthening is a viable option to consider. Of course, each patient needs to be fully informed of the potential benefits and risks associated with such a procedure.
If you are interested in learning more about limb lengthening, be sure to consult with an experienced orthopedic surgeon that specializes in height lengthening procedures, like Dr. Shahab Mahboubian. Contact us today to learn more.