Limb lengthening

What is limb lengthening?

Limb lengthening is a two-stage surgical procedure to correct the problems associated with having legs of different lengths.

Having one leg shorter than another may occur as the result of an accident or due to a medical condition and it can cause pain and mobility problems. The limb lengthening procedure encourages the growth of new bone, causing the limb to lengthen. It is often carried out at the same time as surgery to correct lower limb deformities.

What does limb lengthening involve?

Limb lengthening is a surgical procedure carried out under general anaesthetic, followed by a period of consolidation, strengthening and healing. During surgery, the bone of the affected limb is cut and separated using either an internal or an external fixator. Internal fixators contain a telescopic rod that is implanted inside the centre of the bone. Over time the rod is gradually lengthened using an external remote control until the required length is reached. An external fixator is a type of frame that is used to support the separated bones. Over a period of time it is gradually adjusted to pull the bones and tissues apart, resulting in new bone growth. Bones typically grow at around a millimetre a day.

There are two phases to the limb lengthening process:

  1. Distraction – this is when the bone and soft tissue are cut and slowly pulled apart to encourage new growth.
  2. Consolidation – this is when the correct bone length has been achieved. The new bone is given time to harden and the tissues time to heal. As the bone hardens, you will slowly be able to use the limb more.

Prior to surgery you will undergo screening to check for levels of Vitamin D and to rule out infection and other problems that may affect the outcome of surgery.

Limb lengthening

Limb reconstruction consultants

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