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How is limb lengthening done?

Q: I am 25 years old and want to increase my height by a limb lengthening operation? Where is it done? How much does it cost? Is there any other way of increasing height?

A:Limb lengthening is a known standard technique today. There are guidelines for initiating the process. Limb lengthening for increase in height is a technique that is reserved for very special cases. This is because our limb and body proportion has a certain norm for a normal human being. If you selectively lengthen one segment it would not look graceful; for example, if we lengthen the legs of a patient who is short then the body proportion would appear skewed because of the long legs and short trunk. In addition, leg lengthening alone will lead the thighs looking short making them appear funny. Though the procedure is a standard procedure it takes a long time to achieve. Limb lengthening is a slow process done @ 1 mm per day to a safe margin of 20% of the length of that bone. You may violate this margin of safety depending on the response of the body tissues. On an average, a single segment (leg or thigh) lengthening of 10 cm may take upto 8 months of the patient. Lengthening of thigh bone is fraught with a significant risk of stiff knee. There are other complications also which are far more serious. Therefore limb lengthening is not to be taken lightly and limb lengthening for short stature should be reserved in very special situations and circumstances. The patient who is short (old term of dwarf is not encouraged as it has a negative connotation). Some patients want lengthening because they are emotionally upset that they are shorter than their peers in their class. What such people require is counseling by a psychologist rather than limb lengthening. If you are still very keen, I would recommend that you consult an orthopaedic surgeon who does Ilizarov limb lengthening, discuss with him the pros and cons, understand all the complications that are possible (there is a long list) before you make any decision. You have asked about cost implication twice in your three line letter. May be you are worried about cost but I would say before cost there are several factors to be considered that you must understand those first. The apparatus for limb lengthening costs about Rs.15,000/- and the surgical costs depend on whether you choose a corporate hospital or a Government hospital. In a corporate hospital it may cost you up to a lakh or more. But as I said cost is least of the issues. Your height mentioned in your letter is 167 cm, which is quite good for an average Indian. Why on earth would you wanted to be increased and subjected yourself to all the possible complications? There is an association of little people in some countries who feel that being vertically challenged is not their problem but more of a problem with the onlooker. So think again, I don’t think you should worry about your height. It is far better to be a good human being than worry about your height.

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