Bone Shortening Surgery: Procedure, Side Effects And Risks

As we grow sometimes there is a difference in the length of the bones of the arms and legs.

Uneven arm length might not be of much trouble, but if the legs are not even in length there can be difficulty in movement and pain.

This is the reason why people consider bone shortening surgery as it helps in correcting the difference in the limbs and makes a person comfortable.

Conditions that can lead to unequal leg lengths are:(1)

What Is Bone Shortening Surgery?

  • Bone shortening surgery is a surgery performed to treat the limb length discrepancies (differences between the lengths of the limbs).
  • Limb length discrepancy can lead to side effects such as pain and difficulty in walking, running, and carrying out daily activities.
  • Surgery of leg bone is more common than that done to correct the difference in the arm length. It tends to reduce a person’s height by a few centimeters.

The Procedure Of Bone Shortening Surgery

There are two types of surgery that can be performed to reduce the length of the bones. They are recommended depending on the age and the outcome you are looking for.

Epiphysiodesis

Epiphysiodesis involves surgical destruction of the growth plates at the bone ends.

During the procedure, the surgeon scrapes or drills holes in the growth plates. This prevents them from expanding or slows down the growth. A metal plate is put around the bone to prevent additional bones from developing.

Limb-Shortening Surgery

As the name suggests, this type of bone shortening surgery shortens the length of the bone. This affects the overall height.

During the procedure, a portion of the femur or tibia is removed by the surgeon. Metal plates, rods, or screws are then used to hold the remaining pieces of the bones together until they heal. A maximum length that can be removed from the femur is about 3 inches and the tibia is 2 inches.(2)

How much bone is removed depends on the discrepancy present. Healing may take several weeks and would require you to limit the movement.

Who Can Go Ahead With Bone Shortening Surgery?

The two types of procedures of bone shortening surgery are intended for a different group of people.

Epiphysiodesis is more frequently used for children and teenagers who want to go ahead with bone shortening.

Bone shortening surgery is done for young adults and adults who have finished their growing process. Most of the people reach their final height by 18 to 20 years of age.

It is only after one has reached his final height can doctors decide, how much bone should be removed to even out the limb to correct the difference.

Side Effects and Risks Associated With Bone Shortening Surgery

There are a few risks involved with bone-shortening surgeries. With epiphysiodesis, the complications are as follows:

  • Bleeding
  • Risk of infection
  • Deformity in bone growth
  • Continued growth
  • Overcorrection
  • Undercorrection

Risk and Side Effects of Bone Shortening Surgery Include:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Pain
  • Loss of function
  • Overcorrection
  • Under correction
  • Bones not joining properly
  • Bones healing out of alignment

How To Diagnose Leg Length Discrepancies?

Leg discrepancies can be noticed when a child begins to walk. It can also be noticed during routine screening at school for scoliosis.

The doctor reviews the child’s general health and medical history. A physical examination is conducted that involves observing the way the child walks. The child with leg length discrepancy walks on toes to compensate for the difference in leg length. Some might also bend the knee of the longer leg while walking.

The difference between the legs is measured by placing wooden blocks of different lengths under the shorter leg until both the hips level match. The length and the density of the leg are also measured by imaging studies such as X-ray and CT scan.

The doctor mostly asks to wait if a child is still growing. To monitor the growth, physical examination and imaging tests are done every 6-12 months.

Conclusion:

It is very common for someone to have a difference in the lengths of the limbs. Sometimes the leg length discrepancy can be corrected simply by wearing shoes of different heels.

The problem comes when the difference is bigger and affects the well being and quality of life. In such cases, bone shortening surgery plays a role to provide relief.

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