Rebecca J. Stahl, MA
This procedure corrects a leg length difference. With surgery and devices, a bone can be lengthened over a period of time. The process triggers bone growth and soft tissue lengthening.
Lengthening may be needed if you have a length difference due to:
If the difference is not corrected, it can cause excess strain on joints. You could have pain in your knee, hip, or ankle. You may develop
and back pain.
Correcting the problem can help improve walking and reduce your risk of other problems. Depending on the technique, several inches may be added.
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
Your doctor may do the following:
Before the surgery:
This procedure will be done in stages. The first stage is a procedure called an
osteotomy. The doctor will make an incision in the leg and cut the bone. The doctor will select a fixation device for the leg. This will stabilize the bone while it is being lengthened. Options include:
Lengthening will be done at a rate of about 1 mm (millimeter) per day. This stage may start a few days or weeks after the osteotomy and last for a couple of months. Depending on your device, you will adjust it several times during the day. Your body will slowly regenerate new bone in the small space that was created between the bone ends.
During the next stage, your bone will heal. You will be able to put more weight on your limb. X-rays will be taken. When the healing process is completed, the fixation devices will be removed.
The osteotomy can take about 2 hours. This depends on the extent of the surgery.
The lengthening process can take 2-3 months.
Anesthesia prevents pain during surgery. Your doctor will give you pain medicine after surgery. You may have discomfort from the fixation devices.
The surgery is done in a hospital. The usual length of stay is 1-3 days.
At the hospital, the staff will:
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:
Leg lengthening will take place at home. For a smooth recovery:
The entire process can take up to 6 months.
Contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Orthopaedic Association
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
The Arthritis Society
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Limb length discrepancy. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at:
http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00259. Updated July 2007. Accessed December 12, 2014.
Limb lengthening. International Deformity and Lengthening Institute website. Available at:
http://www.ilizarov.org/ll.pdf. Accessed December 12, 2014.
Limb lengthening. Scottish Rite Hospital for Children website. Available at:
http://www.tsrhc.org/limb-lengthening. Accessed December 12, 2014.
Paley D. Limb lengthening introduction. Limb Lengthening.us website. Available at:
http://www.limblengtheningdoc.org/limb_lengthening_intro.html. Accessed December 12, 2014.
Rozbruch R. Limb lengthening: An overview. Hospital for Special Surgery website. Available at:
http://www.hss.edu/conditions_limb-lengthening-overview.asp. Updated September 22, 2009. Accessed December 12, 2014.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
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