Limb Lengthening

Limb lengthening and reconstruction techniques can be used to lengthen and/or straighten bone segments. Damaged or misshapen bones may be the result of a congenital problem that the patient has had from birth or in response to a traumatic injury or serious disease.

Developed in the 1980s and 1990s, bone lengthening is a proven, long lasting treatment that can prevent a lifetime problems from arthritis brought on by uneven limbs, difficulty performing everyday tasks, and the need for amputation and prosthetic limb replacement.

The limb lengthening and correction process works on the principle of distraction osteogenesis. The bone is carefully cut during surgery and then very gradually distracted (pulled apart), leading to new bone formation. In this way, bone segments can be lengthened up to double the original bone length.

There are several approaches to bone lengthening surgery, including both external and internal mechanisms. Determining which procedure is right for you will include review of age, general overall health, support at home and other factors.

Who is eligible?

Adults and children with arm or leg length difference, bone or joint problems from birth deformities, growth plate fractures, trauma-related bone issues, deformities from serious infections or tumors, or dwarfism or congenital short stature may all be good candidates for bone lengthening. Since it is a complex, time-consuming procedure, your Palm Beach Health Network Physician Groups orthopaedic surgeon will go over the important post-operative requirements.

What are the risks?

In addition to the regular risks of any surgery, there are some additional risks to bone lengthening surgery. These include bone growth that is too fast or too slow, bone deviation, muscle problems, nerve damage, and wound infections. In most of these cases, there are specific corrective measures that can address the complication. Regular follow-up visits and X-rays are crucial in tracking the success of the surgery and making any needed corrections quickly.

What is recovery like?

Patients usually spend one to three days in the hospital after surgery. Most patients report that because the lengthening is so gradual, pain is minimal. Recovery from bone lengthening surgery is a long process that involves monitoring, encouraging and exercising growing bone and other tissues. The physical therapy process is detailed and extensive. Patient and family commitment to time and physical and emotional effort are crucial for bone lengthening to be successful.

Before surgery, your Palm Beach Health Network Physician Groups healthcare team will discuss the entire bone lengthening process and how important it is to follow the post-operative plan.

How do I learn more?

Usually, surgery candidates are referred by a general or family physician. If you would like to make an appointment to speak with a Tenet doctor about this procedure, call 1.866.654.2362.


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