What is limb lengthening?
Limb lengthening is a treatment for major limb length discrepancies (often greater than two inches). In general, lengthening can be done with either an external fixator, or with an internal fixator.
While your child is undergoing lengthening treatment, the doctor will typically see you on a weekly basis to ensure the limbs are lengthening properly. In addition, physical therapy is very important during the lengthening process, as it can help prevent stiffness once the limb becomes longer.
Limb lengthening is a very specialized surgical skill, and only surgeons who are trained in limb lengthening should perform the operation. If the bone is lengthened too fast, it may not heal, and the surrounding muscles, nerves, and joints may be at risk for permanent damage. If the bone is lengthened too slow, it may heal too quickly, and the bone may not be able to reach its desired length.
There are two types of devices that are used in limb lengthening surgery:
It is important to have a thorough discussion with your surgeon about limb lengthening and which device is best suited for your child’s condition.
Other surgical options:
- Lengthen or shorten fingers and smaller bones
- Straighten bones and fingers
- Reposition bones and fingers
- Transfer fingers and toes
- Targeted muscle innervation
- Orthotic devices—Custom fit braces and splints