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Limb Lengthening

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Evolution of Limb Lengthening

The surgical treatment for limb length discrepancy relies on the bodies natural ability to heal fractures. Doctor Ilizarov was a Polish born Soviet physician who in the 1950s and 1960s developed a ringed external fixator system for the treatment of orthopedic injuries. Through his extensive scientific work, he found that if a bone is cut and the two bone ends are moved apart at the correct rate, the body will fill the gap with new bone. This technique is now called distraction osteogenesis. During your evaluation with your surgeon, he or she should use xrays and physical examination to determine the cause for and where exactly the leg length discrepancy originates from. Trauma typically results in the shortening of one bone, while congenital etiologies of leg length discrepancy can affect both the tibia and the femur.

To ensure proper cosmetic and physiologic final outcome, it is important to lengthen the correct bone. Ideally the knee joint stays at the same level as the contralateral leg at their final leg length. However, at times other factors can require asymmetric lengthening of the leg bones. The amount of lengthening performed is usually dictated by what the patients body allows. While the bone lengthens, soft tissues include muscles, ligaments, arteries and nerves do not grow or length at the same rate. If you lengthen too far, then you can cause complications associated with these other structures being stretched to include nerve damage and joint contractures. Often patients undergoing limb lengthening require daily at home or in person physical therapy to prevent some of these complications.

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