Height Surgery – Limits, Limitations & Maximum Height Gain

Written by Joshua Leaf | Updated on September 26, 2021

Before one decides to undergo height increasing surgery, it’s important to have rational and sensible expectations of the limits and limitations of such a procedure. The surgery can’t make someone a foot taller, but it can achieve over half of that, depending on the surgical plan chosen. 

With various surgical options available, we’ll detail the maximum height increase or lengthening from each, in addition to if the surgery is a cure-all for height dysphoria (a dissatisfaction with one’s height).

What’s The Maximum Height I Can Get With Limb Lengthening?

There’s not a limit to how tall you can get per se, but most doctors will only allow a maximum of 6.3 inches in height increase over multiple surgeries. With a single surgery, you will generally gain 2-3.25 inches of height depending on the bone that’s operated on.[1] However, the taller you want to become, the more time and money you must invest.

Types of Limb Lengthening Surgery

The difference between different types of height surgery comes down to which bone is lengthened – the femur or thigh bone, or the tibia or calf bone.

Only Femur or Tibia Lengthening

These surgeries involve lengthening either femur or the tibia, not both. With femur lengthening, you can gain up to 3.25 inches in about a year,[1] while tibia lengthening will net you 2 inches of height at the same time.

Though the height gained is about half that of the combined femur and tibia option, having surgery on one segment is cost-effective and has a quick recovery time. If all goes well, you’ll be fully healed 3-4 months after the lengthening is completed.

The Paley Institute offers femur lengthening at the cost of $97,500, and tibia lengthening costs $109,000. If you have a tight budget, these are the cheapest options for you to consider.

Tibia Lengthening After Femur Lengthening

Though the combined time for this surgery, including recovery, can stretch up to 4 years, you can gain up to 5.25 inches.[1] There is a gap of 1 year between the femur surgery and the tibia lengthening and a recovery period of up to a year afterward.

This makes for a more time-consuming process, but it allows the femur to reach its full potential since the tibia is lengthened at a later time. The total price comes to $206,500 at the Paley Institute, making this a more mid-range surgery.

Combined Femur and Tibia Lengthening

On this one, the tibia and the femur are lengthened within weeks of each other, giving a more proportional look to your legs throughout the entire process. The femur surgery is followed by the tibia surgery three weeks later.

If you get a single combined femur and tibia lengthening procedure, you can grow up to 4 inches. However, you can choose to get a second procedure. This involves using the pre-inserted nails to create gaps in both sets of bones again a year or so later.

Each lengthening period allows an increase of about 4 cm in the tibia and the femur to ensure the safety of the patient. At the end of the second lengthening period, you could have gained up to 6.3 inches.[1]

The recovery period is reduced as compared to lengthening the femur and the tibia separately as both sets of bone heal simultaneously. However, while a single procedure only costs $196,000 at the Paley Institute, the second surgery brings the total cost to a whopping $280,000. Though this method offers the most significant increase in height, it may not be affordable to most people.

Why Does This Limit Exist?

The soft tissues and muscles are the limiting factor as they can’t calcify and heal the same way as bone. In fact, tightness of the tissues often presents as a complication during this process. Physical therapy is an effective way of limiting tightness and keeping mobility intact, but there are limits to what it can do.

According to Dr Paley, the risk of complications increases with an increase in length or height gained. An increase of 5 cm in one bone is considered to be safe, 5-8 cm is on the risky side, and anything beyond that isn’t recommended at all[1].

This is why a combined tibia and femur surgery which adds 10 cm of height is much more effective than lengthening only the femur by 10 cm.

Do I Have to be Under a Certain Height for Leg Lengthening?

No, there’s no height threshold for leg lengthening! Surgeons like Dr Paley believe that it is the patient’s perception of themselves that determines whether they need this surgery or not.

In a study conducted by him which analyzed the relationship of height to height dysphoria (also known as height neurosis), it was found that “patients starting height varied from 4’10” to 5’11” for males and 4’6″ to 5’8″ for women.” [1] Since there are patients at the upper end as well, you don’t have to be objectively short to experience distress over your height, i.e., height dysphoria.

While the average pre-surgery height is 152.6 cm,[2] the average Danish man, standing at 5’11”, may see himself as short in his own country when he comes across people on the higher end of the spectrum. However, the same man may feel like a giant in India, where the average height is 5’4″-5’5″.[3] This demonstrates that the cultural context of the patient and their psyche are what matter.

Height Surgery Limitations

Height surgery should be viewed as an enhancement like plastic surgery. It can definitely boost confidence and lessen height neurosis in many patients, but just as with plastic surgery, not every procedure will be effective in making the patient feel better about themselves. Even if the average height growth from this surgery is 7.2 cm or 5.1 inches.[2]

While height surgery is overwhelmingly successful,[4] it’s important to keep a level head, know your motivations, and approach it pragmatically. Always do your research and don’t hesitate to discuss your motivations or the procedure itself with a medical professional. 

References

[1] Paley, D. (2018, August 15). Cosmetic Stature Lengthening FAQs. Paley Orthopedic and Spine Clinic. https://paleyinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/Cosmetic-Stature-Lengthening-FAQs.pdf

[2] Guerreschi, F., & Tsibidakis, H. (2016). Cosmetic lengthening: what are the limits?. Journal of children’s orthopaedics, 10(6), 597–604. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11832-016-0791-z

[3] World Population Review. (2021). Average Height by Country 2021. World Population Review. https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/average-height-by-country

[4] Rozbruch, S. R. (2020, April 28). Limb Lengthening – An Overview. HSS. https://www.hss.edu/conditions_limb-lengthening-overview.asp

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