What Is Limb Lengthening Surgery?
Limb lengthening is a relatively novel method to help those individuals who have limb length discrepancy due to any reason. The limb length of an individual may get affected due to any of the following reasons namely, a poorly healed fracture, some underlying disease, certain congenital malformations.
This procedure was originally done in Russia and soon picked up in other parts of the world. This surgery is especially helpful for those individuals who are short in stature and want to increase their height. Limb Lengthening Surgery not only increases the length of the limb, but also addresses the deformity that may be accompanied with limb length shortening.
Limb Lengthening Surgery revolves around the body’s capacity to form new bone along with soft tissues, ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves. Limb Lengthening Surgery begins with a procedure called osteotomy in which the bone that needs to be lengthened is cut. The limb is then stabilized using screws and plates or other fixation devices.
The next step towards Limb Lengthening Surgery is the recovery phase. This is done in two parts. The first part is the distraction phase of recovery. In this phase, the bone which is cut is gently pulled apart. This process promotes new bone growth at the site of the osteotomy.
Once new bone growth starts, then the external fixation device is adjusted accordingly to provide space for the new bone growth. As the space between the bones opens up and new bone starts to fill in the limb length increases to the desired length.
Adjustments to the fixation device may also be made to correct any deformities that may be present. During this process, the patient will be allowed to walk using crutches.
The second phase of recovery involves bone healing and consolidation of the bone. The patient is allowed to put more weight on the legs and gradually is allowed to walk without any assistance. Routine x-rays will be taken during the recovery phase to see whether the bone is healing well.
Once the radiological studies confirm complete bone healing, then the external fixation device is removed and the patient may return back to normal activities of daily living. An individual wishing to undergo Limb Lengthening Surgery has to spend at least two days in the hospital.
The actual procedure does not involve any large incisions or bone grafts. The surgical procedure for Limb Lengthening Surgery is not painful either during the surgery of immediately after the surgery so pain medications are rarely required after a Limb Lengthening Surgery. In case of pain associated with a Limb Lengthening Surgery, consultation with pain management is recommended who can formulate the best regimen for control of pain after surgery.
There are various advantages of a Limb Lengthening Surgery. It is helpful not only for patients with limb length discrepancy, but it is also useful for correction of deformities resulting out of a congenital defect, fracture which has healed in deformed position, nonunion of a fracture.
While Limb Lengthening Surgery is basically used for correction of limb length discrepancy in the lower extremities, there have been cases where Limb Lengthening Surgery has been used for the upper extremities as well. This is especially true for patients with genetic conditions, which make them very short in stature with very short arms and legs.
Additionally, Limb Lengthening Surgery can be of benefit for those individuals who are at risk of losing a limb due to a trauma, missing tissues, infections, or a tumor. Such a surgery is also called as salvage procedure. The success rate of such a procedure is quite variable and not all surgeries to salvage the limb are successful.
Other than this, the overall success rate for a Limb Lengthening Surgery is above 95%. Postsurgery scarring is extremely minimal in cases of Limb Lengthening Surgery as the incisions made are very small in such procedures.
Limb Lengthening Surgery does not pose any serious problems at the time of the procedure of after the procedure, although there may be cases of joint stiffness, which gradually resolves over time post Limb Lengthening Surgery.
What Is The Eligibility Criteria For Limb Lengthening Surgery?
In many cases people present for a consultation for a limb length discrepancy, in actuality it is only a case of scoliosis and there is no problem with the actual limb length of the individual. Such individuals are not candidates for Limb Lengthening Surgery. A radiological study done of the limbs virtually confirm if there is any leg length inequality or not.
There is no age limit as to qualifying for a Limb Lengthening Surgery. Individuals in their 20s, 30s, or even 50s are eligible to undergo a Limb Lengthening Surgery for cases of limb length discrepancy or any genetic abnormality resulting in them having extremely short leg and hands. In patients who are under the age of 15, special care is taken during the procedure so as to avoid injuring the growth plates.
What Is The Recovery Time From Limb Lengthening Surgery?
The recovery time from a Limb Lengthening Surgery is quite variable where it takes time for the new bone to consolidate in some individuals where as in some individuals the consolidation process is much quicker. This is seen mostly in the elderly patients where due to age and other factors it takes longer for new bone formation to take place in elderly patients.
For teenagers and young adults, it usually takes around 6 to 8 weeks to recover from Limb Lengthening Surgery where as it takes around 6 months for an elderly patient to recovery completely from a Limb Lengthening Surgery.
During the recovery period, the patient is expected to be diligent with physical therapy and take enough calcium supplements for promoting new bone formation after a Limb Lengthening Surgery.
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