Reasons for Procedure
- Trauma (such as leg fracture)
- Bone infection
- Congenital defect or other condition that affects your bone growth (such as Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome)
- Short stature (such as dwarfism)
- Cerebral palsy
- Excess bleeding
- Adverse reaction to anesthesia
- Infection (may be around the pins or wires that are inserted during the procedure)
- Blood clots
- Nausea and vomiting
- Joint stiffness
- Bone length may not be exact (such as longer or shorter than planned)
- Muscle contraction (muscle shortens)
- Nerve injury
- Problems with the new bone forming
- Chronic disease such as diabetes or obesity
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
- A physical exam
- Measure your legs
- Take x-rays
Talk to your doctor about your medicines—You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:
- Aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs
- Blood thinners
- Avoid eating or drinking after midnight the night before surgery.
Description of the Procedure
- External fixation device—This framed device is positioned around the leg. Pins and wires are placed through the skin and tissue to reach the bone and lengthen it. Some have a dial attached to the frame. This dial is turned to slowly lengthen the bone.
- Internal fixation device—This is placed inside the leg. It is positioned on the bone. Some of these devices have a nail with a tool that automatically lengthens the bone. In other cases, it is used with the external device.
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Immediately After Procedure
How Long Will It Take?
How Much Will It Hurt?
Average Hospital Stay
- Give medicine to prevent blood clots
- Have you breathe deeply and cough regularly to prevent fluid build-up in the lungs
- Encourage you to get out of bed and walk using crutches or a walker
- Have you start physical therapy the day after surgery
- Teach you how to adjust the fixation devices
- Teach you how to care for the pin and wire sites for an external fixation device
- Washing their hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
- Keeping your incisions covered
- Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and healthcare providers to do the same
- Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
- Not allowing others to touch your incisions
- Use crutches or a walker. Do not put weight on your leg until your doctor gives you permission.
- If you have a device that needs to be adjusted, carefully adjust it throughout the day as instructed.
- Keep the external fixation device clean, especially around the pins and wires, to prevent infection.
- Keep the incision area clean and dry.
- Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
- Work with a physical therapist. They will focus on stretching and strengthening your leg.
- Take pain medicine as directed.
- Go to all of your follow-up appointments. You will need to have x-rays taken every 2-3 weeks to monitor bone growth.
- Eat a healthy diet. If instructed, take calcium supplements.
Call Your Doctor
- Signs of infection (such as fever, chills)
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge around the incision or pin and wire sites
- Pain and/or swelling in the feet, calves, or legs
- Pain that you cannot control with the medicine you were given
- Cough, shortness of breath, chest pain
- Severe nausea or vomiting
- Numbness, tingling, or loss of feeling in your leg, knee, or foot
- Problems or concerns about the fixation devices
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://www.aaos.org
American Orthopaedic Association http://www.aoassn.org
The Arthritis Society http://www.arthritis.ca
Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org
Limb length discrepancy. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00259. Updated July 2007. Accessed November 29, 2010.
Limb lengthening. International Deformity and Lengthening Institute website. Available at: http://www.ilizarov.org/ll.pdf. Accessed November 29, 2010.
Limb lengthening. Scottish Rite Hospital for Children website. Available at: http://www.tsrhc.org/limb-lengthening.htm. Accessed November 29, 2010.
The New York Institute for limb lengthening and reconstruction. NYU Hospital for Joint Disease website. Available at: http://www.med.nyu.edu/hjd/centerforchildren/patient/limb.html. Accessed November 29, 2010.
Paley D. Limb lengthening introduction. Limb Lengthening.us website. Available at: http://www.limblengtheningdoc.org/limb%5Flengthening%5Fintro.html. Accessed November 29, 2010.
Rozbruch R. Limb lengthening an overview. Hospital for Special Surgery website. Available at: http://www.hss.edu/conditions%5Flimb-lengthening-overview.asp. Updated January 24, 2003. Accessed November 29, 2010.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 09/2012 -
- Update Date: 01/24/2014 -