Limb Lengthening Success Rates (For Surgery & Treating Dysphoria)

Written by Joshua Leaf | Updated on November 29, 2021

Patients have undergone cosmetic leg lengthening surgery since 1992, while similar procedures have been used since the 1950’s in order to treat trauma accidents and congenital abnormalities in children. Since limb lengthening has been used for quite some time now, there’s plenty of data to show the success rates and whether it helps treat height dysphoria.

Each year more and more people elect for cosmetic limb lengthening, and even more lately due to the recent obsession with height. No matter the reason for lengthening, it’s important to understand the effectiveness of such a procedure as well as being familiar with any complications that can arise.

Success Rates of Cosmetic Limb Lengthening Surgeries

There’s tons of data about limb lengthening in general, but it’s only been used for cosmetic purposes since the 90’s, so there are fewer studies surrounding cosmetic limb lengthening. Therefore, it’s important to observe data from cosmetic, trauma, and congenital cases to conclude overall success rates.

A study solely on cosmetic limb lengthening was conducted 2014 [1], and the patients were treated with a common, but out of date device – The Ilizarov apparatus. The Ilizarov Institute studied 131 patients, 16 to 67 years old, with an average lengthening of 6.9 cm. This study showed a complication rate of about 37% at follow-up, but most of these issues were resolved without affecting the end result [1].

Alternatively, in a 2020 review article published by the Bone and Joint Research Journal, it was found that internal leg-lengthening nails provided a shorter recovery period and fewer complications post-op [2].

Success Rates of All Limb Lengthening Surgeries (Trauma & Congenital Included)

As mentioned, limb lengthening is also used to correct trauma-related injuries and congenital deformities, so these studies are much more comprehensive.

Generally, a surgeon will consider bone lengthening if a lower limb discrepancy between 2 and 4 cm exists (If their leg lengths are uneven). Anything over 4 cm is generally done without question. If these deformities are not corrected in childhood, they can lead to scoliosis or obliquity, causing significant damage [3].

These surgeries are generally successful, and the healed bones are just as strong as a “new” bone. According to S. Robert Rozbruch, MD, Chief of the Limb Lengthening and Complex Reconstruction Service (LLCRS) at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), once the lengthened bone is healed, the new bone will not weaken or deteriorate over time – it is just as strong as every other bone in the body [3]. The success for height surgery remains at 95% overall [3].

 

Success Rates of Height Surgery Treating Height Dysphoria

Leg lengthening surgery is commonly done by those who suffer from height dysphoria and body dysphoria disorder. Height dysphoria is an illness defined as “a psychological burden caused by a dissatisfaction with one’s height.” [4]

Studies have shown that this procedure can ease symptoms for those suffering from height dysphoria and minor body dysmorphic disorder if the patients have reasonable expectations. Most patients report “high rates of satisfaction with the result along with improvements in self-esteem and self-confidence” [4].

It’s important to note that those with severe cases of body dysmorphic disorder do not see the same improvements since they may continue to view themselves in the same manner or are continually dissatisfied despite the increased height or stature. Or they become dissatisfied with another body part [4].

So, is this surgery successful? In most cases, yes.

Like every other cosmetic procedure, there are inherent risks involved, and while it can help some, it’s not a cure-all for everyone facing distress regarding their height.

While limb or height lengthening has high success rates, it’s not the only treatment available.

Suppose one is considering the surgery or is just dissatisfied with their height. In that case, it’s important to discuss the matter with a healthcare professional so they can recommend appropriate treatment on an individual basis.

References

[1] Hosny, G. A. (2020, March 5). Limb lengthening history, evolution, complications and current concepts. Journal of orthopaedics and traumatology : official journal of the Italian Society of Orthopaedics and Traumatology. Retrieved October 8, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7058770/.

[2] Marwan, Y., Cohen, D., Alotaibi, M., Addar, A., Bernstein, M., & Hamdy, R. (2020, July 8). Cosmetic stature lengthening: Systematic review of outcomes and complications. Bone & joint research. Retrieved October 11, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7342054.

[3] Rozbruch, S. R. (n.d.). Limb lengthening: An overview by S. Robert Rozbruch: HSS. Hospital for Special Surgery. Retrieved October 8, 2021, from https://www.hss.edu/conditions_limb-lengthening-overview.asp.

[4] Lee, R. C., Aulisio, M., & Liu, R. W. (2020). Exploring the ethics of stature lengthening as treatment for height dysphoria. Strategies in trauma and limb reconstruction. Retrieved October 8, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8121106/.

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