Height Reduction Surgery: Get Shorter With Bone Shortening

Written by Joshua Leaf | Updated on September 17, 2021

 

Orthopedic surgeons have been reducing people’s height through surgery for quite some time now, but only recently have doctors started making people shorter for purely cosmetic or aesthetic reasons. 

That’s right, a surgery pioneered to fix trauma and deformity patients has emerged into the cosmetic surgery market because some people are determined to get shorter, even if that means surgery. Some question the morality or merit of such a surgery which brings us to…

Who Needs & What Calls for Height Reduction Surgery

When it comes to surgery such as height reduction, there will be some who need it and some who want it to achieve their desired height. So what constitutes a need vs. want, and should people be allowed to break their bones to get shorter?

Who Needs Bone Shortening Surgery

The need for surgery like height reduction can be one of many reasons. However, the most common requirement for this type of surgery is congenital disabilities (birth defects). These can be any birth defects that cause limbs to grow at different sizes. This can result in the recommendation for either a limb lengthening procedure or, bone shortening procedure.

Limb shortening is often recommended for patients who are fully developed. In the case of children whose bones haven’t fully developed, bone growth restrictions are recommended [1].

Other health conditions can contribute to the unequal growth of limbs, such as [2];

  • Weak, small, short, or tight muscles can potentially prevent average leg growth
  • Past injuries and/or broken bones
  • Legg-Perthes disease and other hip diseases [3]
  • Poliomyelitis.
  • Cerebral Palsy [4]

These health conditions often produced similar results to stunting growth and causing differences in limb lengths. This can be a significant catalyst for surgical intervention.

Having limbs growing at different rates or fully developed to different lengths can cause; pain, discomfort, and long-lasting issues to your body if left untreated. Therefore, it is essential to consult your doctor regarding methods to relieve needless suffering.

Wanting to Get Shorter With Surgery

No matter how short or tall, when people are bullied about their height this can bring up feelings of inadequacy. It’s easy to judge someone because they want to get shorter, but it’s difficult to put yourself in their shoes by imagining the discomfort and mental distress they go through in relation to their height

In a report published on their website, the UK Mental Health Foundation wrote, ‘Higher body dissatisfaction is associated with a poorer quality of life, psychological distress, and the risk of unhealthy eating behaviors and eating disorders.’ [5]

In today’s day in age, feeling confident in your own skin is essential to a happy life. Therefore, despite the “just love yourself,” and “body acceptance” movement, a sane and reasonable person should be able to get shorter or taller through surgery. 

So if you’re tired of squishing into cars that don’t accommodate your height or tired of all the other tall people clichés, rest assured you have the autonomy to choose what to do with your body to solve your height dysphoria (height dissatisfaction). 

How is Height Reduced Through Bone Shortening?

Height reduction surgery (or limb shortening surgery) is a serious undertaking for both a doctor and a patient. The process requires intensive surgery and recovery time before you’re finished with the process.

To successfully conduct a limb shortening surgery, a surgeon will cut open your leg to remove a portion of the tibia, femur or occasionally both bones depending on the application. Then, to successfully have the bones heal, they place metal plates, screws, or rods in to hold the bones together and give them the help they need to heal in place. 

The fixator devices used to hold the bones correctly can either be a metal rod or metal plate. A metal rod is inserted into bone centers and is removed after a year. Metal plates are screwed onto the bone.

There is a maximum length of the bone that a doctor can remove from certain bones in your body. For example, the tibia, one of the two long bones found in your lower leg, can only have 5 centimeters (2 inches) removed. The femur, which is the body’s heaviest, longest, and most prominent bone found in your upper thigh, can only have 7.5 centimeters 3 inches) removed [7].

Epiphysiodesis: A Height Reduction Alternative For Children

Epiphysiodesis is an option for children, which is essentially the surgical destruction of growth plates (growth plate fusion) at the end of bones. As the child gets older, the growth plates produce bone material that hardens and keeps them from having a severe case of leg length discrepancy. 

Risks of Getting Shorter via Surgery

As with every surgery or medical procedure, height reduction comes with its own set of benefits and risks. The other potential risks of leg shortening surgery (LSS) are as follows;

  • Pain/Discomfort
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Loss of function
  • Bones failing to rejoin during healing (nonunion)
  • Bones healing out of alignment
  • Muscle weakness

We recommend considering attending physiotherapy to aid in the healing process and avoiding things such as muscle weakness. 

Some of these are common risks that likely will happen. The feeling of pain or discomfort is somewhat expected. In the rare instances of nonunion or bones healing out of alignment, additional surgery is necessary to correct it. 

Overall, however, these risks aren’t guaranteed. The lesser ones may only be momentary issues that get easier with time before entirely fading away.

Post Surgery

If the surgery is done on both legs, you may find yourself or child in leg casts or on crutches for a while before the doctor is happy with the consolidation (healing) progress

Don’t be afraid to call Mom, Dad, your significant other, or best friend to ask for help. Parents, don’t be scared; with your doctor’s support, you will get through this. You’d be surprised how tough your kiddos are. 

After bone shortening surgery, people are unable to move about freely for a month or more. It’s common for it to take 6 – 12 weeks to simply regain control and function of the knee. Finally, once all is said and done, you need to return for the final surgery where the pins are removed. A full recovery from height reduction surgery can be up to 2 years. 

Regardless of the reason, if you’re still considering height reduction surgery for yourself or child, we encourage you to relentlessly research the best doctors around to ensure a successful operation. Remember, health and safety should be a top priority. 

References

[1] Height reduction surgery. (n.d.). Ladisten. Retrieved September 3, 2021, from https://ladisten.com/en/services/operatsiya-po-umensheniyu-rosta/ 

[2]Limb Length Discrepancy. (n.d.). OrthoInfo. Retrieved September 3, 2021, from https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/limb-length-discrepancy

[3] Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. (n.d.). Medline Plus. Retrieved September 3, 2021, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001264.htm 

[4] Cerebral palsy. (n.d.). Medline Plus. Retrieved September 3, 2021, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000716.htm 

[5] Mental Health Foundation. (2019, May). Body image: How we think and feel about our bodies. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/body-image-report 

[6]Ogunyemi, B. O. (2017). Surgical innovation in the cold war era: Gavriil Ilizarov and his apparatus as a device for external fixation and limb lengthening. UBCMJ Volume 8 Issue 2 | March 20178(2), 29–30. http://med-fom-ubcmj.sites.olt.ubc.ca/files/2017/03/Ogunyemi-surgical-innovation-UPDATED.pdf 

[7] Kenwright J, Albinana J. Problems encountered in leg shortening. J Bone Joint Surg Br. 1991 Jul;73(4):671-5. DOI: 10.1302/0301-620X.73B4.2071658. PMID: 2071658. 

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