What is limb lengthening?

Discrepancies in limb length are often due to the previous injury to the bone causing growth differences, arthritis, bone disease, growth abnormalities and bone infections. While most people won't notice a discrepancy in limb length, for some leg length discrepancies, can cause difficulty walking, dysfunction and pain in the leg and back. In these cases, surgery may be done to lengthen the limb.

What does treatment involve?

Depending on the severity of the discrepancy, treatment may vary. Minor length discrepancies may only require orthotic devices that can be worn in shoes. For more major discrepancies in children, the longer leg may be made shorter surgical to slow down the growth of that leg so that the other leg may "catch-up". For adults with major length discrepancies, limb lengthening may be done to the shorter leg by using an internal or external fixation device. Internal fixation is a metal plate which is attached to the outside of the bone with nails. An external fixation, however, is a rigid frame which is attached to the outside of the fracture site through wires or pins that are connected internally to the bone. These devices can be adjusted daily and thus gradually lengthen the leg over time until the desired length is achieved. Once achieved, the bone needs time to strengthen.

What can I expect in terms of recovery?

Recovery may vary depending on age and how severe the discrepancy. Dr Heymans will decide on the best method to treat the deformity and inform you of what you can expect for recovery after leg lengthening surgery.