This question always confronts individuals who suffer from dwarfism.
Longer legs are often considered by women a value of beauty. Stature lengthening is a cosmetic procedure for individuals who wish to become taller. However next to stature lengthening patients should be addressed who are affected by posttraumatic or birth related leg or arm length discrepancies.
Bone growth ends normally after puberty, but bone has the lifelong ability to regenerate to fix a fracture. This phenomenon is applied in bone lengthening. The shortened bone is separated surgically and hereby an artificial fracture is set. Lengthening works by pulling apart the bone segments very slowly (maximum 1 mm per day) so that new bone continues to form in the gap resulting in increased length.
Originally bone lengthening was performed using external frames that attach to the bone through wires and pins. Today we use a telescopic internal nail whenever possible that is implanted in the marrow cavity of the bone. The internal lengthening process works on the same principle of bone regeneration. The external remote control rotates a magnet inside the nail which activates an internal gear system and extends the telescopic nail. This novel state-of-the-art device eliminates the need for an external fixation apparatus.
Two patient stories:
A 15 year old motorcycle driver sustained a subtotal amputation of his lower limb with 26 cm bone loss. Using innovative surgical techniques (combination of lengthening with external fixators followed by nail fixation) the shortened limb was reconstructed within 8 months. This was the longest limb reconstruction in Europe and furthermore the longest rod in the world to be implanted 2012.
A 32 year old female suffered from congenital 5 cm upper arm shortening. Fitting clothes was most difficult for her and she was complaining about increasing neck and back pain. Bone lengthening with the external fixator was no option for the young mother. Therefore the first humeral lengthening procedure in Austria using a telescopic nail was performed. Already after 5 months her lengthened arm had healed and she was able to use it without restrictions.
The decision to perform limb lengthening has to be made individually. The innovative new telescopic nails in the hand of skilled bone lengthening surgeons has made this procedure to a routine procedure.
The dream to have equally long legs or arms or to become taller can be accomplished today in most cases.