Being short comes with disadvantages, from earnings potential and dating prospects to navigating daily interactions and personal confidence.
Who is Height Lengthening Surgery for?
Cosmetic height lengthening surgery for those of short stature who are healthy enough for surgery and are unhappy with their stature. The procedure is only right for those whose bones have finished growing, which may vary by person, but usually occurs at around 16 years old. As you age, your body’s ability to heal and your bone quality changes, so people usually must be under the age of 55 in order to have a safe, effective procedure. Limb lengthening after 55 is possible, but you may need to have bone density and other tests done, and you may experience a slower healing time and more moderate growth expectations.
About the Procedure
Leg lengthening surgery works by putting the body’s own healing and regeneration capabilities to work. The thigh bone (femur) or the shin bone (tibia), or both, may be lengthened. Your body is able to regenerate new bone, tissues, ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves to support growth and increased height.
The surgery takes place in a hospital, with a one to three night stay following the operation itself. During the minimally-invasive procedure, a small incision is made in the front of the knee or by the hip. The bone to be lengthened is cut into two sections and an adjustable nail is placed into the center of the bone (in the marrow cavity), secured into place with locking screws.
In the first days after surgery once you leave the hospital, you’ll initially be moving around with the help of a walker before gradually beginning to bear weight on the growing bone again. You’ll undergo physical therapy to help promote recovery, bone growth, strength, and range of motion.
Even though limb lengthening surgery is minimally-invasive, there may be some level of scarring. Scars are just part of the body’s natural healing process and can occur any time skin is cut, even from a small, precise surgical incision. The extent to which you scar and the appearance of your scar may have a lot to do with genetics and the nutritional makeup of your diet.
The technology developments in limb lengthening surgery, along with proper medication management and monitoring has made this surgery safer than ever and has reduced the risk of compartment syndrome, the pressure buildup from swollen tissues or internal bleeding. As with any surgery, there are some risks, including infection, blood clots, joint stiffness, or other issues. Altogether, these risks affect a very small percentage of patients. Before surgery, we will answer all your safety questions and our team stays in touch before and after surgery to minimize all the procedure risks.
Leg lengthening surgery to enhance height is considered cosmetic surgery, and is usually not covered by health insurance. Although health insurance may cover some other costs, including physical therapy, medications, and any treatments needed in the event of complications.
Height Increase with Limb Lengthening Surgery
While the limb lengthening surgery takes only a few hours, the lengthening process itself takes place post surgery. Over several weeks or months, the internal device is adjusted using a remote control and magnet technology, gradually pulling the bone apart millimeter by millimeter.
The internal device is able to pull the bone apart by about one millimeter every day—taking about 25 days for each inch. Your body does the work to fill in the gap, growing new bone and soft tissues, as well as muscles and blood vessels over time, until the desired new bone length is reached.
Most patients seek to gain about 3.1 inches of height (8 cm), which is generally the safe maximum to grow in the femur. If you opt for limb lengthening in both the femur and tibia, you may be able to achieve a total of up to 5.6 inches (14.5 cm)—up to 3.1 inches (8 cm) in the femur and up to 2.5 inches (6.5 cm) in the tibia.
Dr. Shahab Mahboubian, D.O., MPH, is a national leader in limb lengthening and deformity correction surgery. Using the most advanced techniques, Dr. Mahboubian has helped patients achieve their height lengthening goals.