About Limb Lengthening
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What is limb lenghening?
Limb Lengthening is a method of surgery for increasing the length of the limb. The bone is elongated, as well as the muscles, nerves, blood vessels and all other tissues.
Who is a candidate for limb lenghening?
Limb lenghening procedure is mainly performed to correct differences in length between legs or arms (LLD). Differences in length of 6-10 cm between limbs can usually be corrected.
The same methods can also be used for cosmetic height increase in very short people, a process called Symmetric extended limb lengthening (ELL).
What are the steps of limb lenghening?
The limb lenghening process is divided into three steps:
How long does the limb lenghening process take?
- The operation
The bones in the limbs that needs lenghening are cut. Metal pins or screws are inserted into the bone, above and below the cut in the bone.
- The stretching (lenghening) period
Every day, or several hours, the limb is stretched (according to the method used), pulling it from both sides. The rate of stretching is about 1 mm per day.
The bones continue to grow, constantly filling the gap.
- The consolidation (fixation) period
During this time the newly formed bone hardens, until the apparatus can be removed and the process is done.
6-8 cm elongation can take approximately 5.5-6.5 months.
12-15 cm elongation can take 8-9 months.
What methods of limb lenghening are available?
- Ilizarov method
The first and still most common technique of limb lenghening is the Ilizarov method, which was invented by Dr. Ilizarov from Russia in 1951.
A special external device called Ilizarov device is placed around the leg or arm, allowing for the stretching to be performed. This device is worn by the patient throughout the whole lenghening process, which can last several months.
- ISKD method
The ISKD uses fully implantable nails that are rotated using a magnet and the movement of the limb.
There is no need for an external aparatus, therefore reducing the risk of infections and scarring.
The ISKD method does not allow full weight bearing so patients are required to use a wheelchair during the entire lengthening process.
- Albizzia method
The Albizzia is an internal telescopic nail consisting of a lengthening mechanism activated by a rotation. Lengthening occurs with alternate rotations of the desired bone segment. The rotation of the bone segment makes a "click" noise so that the patient knows exactly how much he or she has lengthened.
The Albizzia allows for full weight bearing so patients are allowed to use crutches and are not restricted to wheelchairs.
- FitBone method
Fitbone is a limb lenghening technique, in which the implanted nails are operated electronically.
FitBone does not allow full weight bearing, so the patient is restriceted to a wheel chair throughout the whole process.
Anesthesia : The surgery is done under general anesthesia.
After care : Physical therapy is recommended to keep the muscles from deteriorating and maintain the flexibility of the joints.