Home Men Health More ‘Height-Challenged’ Men Are Getting Leg-Lengthening Surgeries

More ‘Height-Challenged’ Men Are Getting Leg-Lengthening Surgeries

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More ‘Height-Challenged’ Men Are Getting Leg-Lengthening Surgeries

TUESDAY, May 30, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Some short men really struggle with their lack of height, feeling that they’re each literally and figuratively looked down upon by others.

That’s why an increasing variety of height-challenged men are turning to limb-lengthening surgery — an expensive, potentially painful, months-long procedure that can add a couple of extra inches to their frame.

Limb-lengthening procedures have been around for a long time, and have been typically used to correct illnesses and birth defects that cause one leg to be shorter than the opposite, said Dr. David Frumberg, co-director of the Yale Limb Restoration and Lengthening Program.

“You principally persuade the body that there’s a hairline fracture, and you permit the body to establish a healing response,” Frumberg explained. “Then you definately step by step distract [separate] the bone ends apart and stretch the healing response over the specified length.”

Alfonso Mascolo, 64, of Wolcott, Conn., underwent the procedure in February to have his left leg lengthened to match his right leg. Polio had caused his left leg to be shorter since he was 6 years old.

But recent technology — in the shape of a telescoping rod implanted contained in the leg bone — has made it much easier so as to add inches to 1 or each of an individual’s legs, Frumberg said.

An orthopedic surgeon gently breaks an individual’s leg bone in a way that maintains blood supply, after which inserts the titanium rod contained in the length of the bone.

“You’ll be able to put a rod on the inside the bone that has a motor in it that will be activated from outside the body,” Frumberg explained. “It will be a telescoping nail that goes on the inside the body where, with either electric energy through the skin or with a magnet that’s held on top of the leg, you may activate the nail to turn into longer in a predictable way.”

Mascolo benefitted from this recent technology, which is an alternative choice to the fixed frame attached outside the leg that had been the prior standard for limb-lengthening.

3 times a day, he would “apply this equipment that might make a screw contained in the rod turn,” Mascolo recalled. “It turned thrice a day for a complete of 1 millimeter per day, until you reach the 1 inch.”

A growing trend

The relative ease of the procedure provided by these recent rods have led men like John Lovedale of Harrisburg, Pa., to hunt down the surgery specifically so as to add inches to his height.

Lovedale started off at 5-foot-8 and a half, but following the $75,000 procedure he stood at 5-foot-11 and a half.

“People just take a look at you in a different way once you’re tall. I already get quite a bit more looks on the gym,” Lovedale, a person in his 40s, told GQ magazine.

Frumberg said more people, men particularly, are approaching him for such cosmetic height surgery.

“One can have dissatisfaction with their appearance in many alternative ways, and so it’s not crazy that someone would intend to make themselves slightly bit taller, especially in the event that they have the means to accomplish that,” Frumberg said.

Insurance typically covers the procedure if it’s meant to make one leg the identical length as the opposite, Frumberg said. But when it’s solely to make someone taller, the patient could typically face $60,000 to $90,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.

The rule of thumb is that a bone will be prolonged by about 15% of its original length, Frumberg said.

The procedure have to be done very, very step by step, in order that regenerating bone fills within the tiny gap being created by the rod, said Dr. Andy Sems, an orthopedic surgeon with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

“It’s a really rate- and rhythm-dependent process, meaning that you have got to go at a really specific rate in order that the bone will form,” Sems said. “As you proceed to drag the bone’s ends apart, the regenerate bone continues to form behind it to fill within the gap that’s created.”

“In case you’re doing, for instance, a femur lengthening, you’ll cut the bone, you’d wait every week, let the healing response arrange and you then’d stretch that healing response a couple of millimeter per day,” Frumberg said. “One inch is 25 millimeters, so for 25 days you’ll just step by step lengthen the bone. Then you definately’d be at your goal length and also you wait around for it to heal, which might typically take twice as long.”

Complications can occur

Through the procedure, patients can’t place any weight on the leg, Frumberg said. They should get around using a walker or crutches.

Mascolo had his surgery on Feb. 9, and said, “for me, May 2 was after I had no more restriction on body weight.”

The fantastic thing about the procedure is that the bone that grows in is just as strong as what was there before, Frumberg said.

“That bone is precisely the identical because the bone next to it since it was at all times your bone,” Frumberg said. “You grew it yourself. It looks exactly just like the bone right next to it. The bone is just as strong because the adjoining bone.”

Nonetheless, limb-lengthening surgery just isn’t without pain and peril, Frumberg warns.

“Lengthening the bones, high quality. But you furthermore mght should lengthen the muscles, the tendons, the nerves, the blood vessels. All of them should slowly lengthen as well. And that’s where you get into trouble. That’s where the complication profile comes from,” Frumberg said.

For instance, if a leg-lengthening overextends the hamstring muscle, an individual could wind up with a dislocated knee, Frumberg said.

The bone also could grow in improper, if not tended to properly by trained professionals, Frumberg added.

“Last Friday, I saw a gentleman who had a lengthening done overseas and he has no bone within the gap,” Frumberg said. “There’s nothing there. He’s got bones that were slowly stretched apart, but there isn’t a bone in between. That’s a giant problem.”

Even without serious complications, the procedure can involve some extent of pain.

Stretched muscles, tendons

“Some people really do have pain and it often is muscle-related,” Frumberg said. “Except for the initial surgery where the bone is cut, the bone pain just isn’t really what people complain about. It’s often the joints being stiff and the muscles being tight. And pain can definitely be significant, especially throughout the lengthening phase.”

Patients have to undergo a lot of physical therapy to make sure that that their muscles and joints can accommodate their longer legs, Sems said.

“Stiffness of the joints around the world which are being lengthened is a quite common complication that now we have to administer and cope with,” Sems said. “To stop that, now we have our patients work with frequent physical therapy sessions to take care of their motion across the joint.”

As a final step, patients also must come back months after their bones have healed to have the rod surgically removed, Frumberg said.

Mascolo will return to the hospital in October to have the rod in his leg taken out, he said.

Despite all this, Mascolo is thrilled that he underwent the surgery. For years he struggled to walk with lifts in his left shoe, and in barefoot places just like the beach he needed to limp around.

“I’m so pleased. I can see myself walking on the beach like a daily person at 64. It’s my dream come true,” Mascolo said.

At the identical time, he recommends that folks getting height surgery consider the risks before proceeding.

“In case you’re gonna do that for a cosmetic reason and you actually feel that it’s going to make your life higher, then God bless you,” Mascolo said. “But you have got to make sure that is something you actually, really need, since it’s not a lightweight surgery. It’s not like putting a bridge in your teeth or a root canal. It’s far more intense than that.”

Frumberg agreed, noting that he incessantly sends patients to a mental health expert as a part of a height surgery seek the advice of, to make sure that they’re approaching the procedure well-informed and with a level head.

“Every millimeter you place on, it just adds more risk,” Frumberg said. “If someone desires to be 2 inches taller, that’s probably achievable. But I need to make sure that they understand the surgery can go south. You have got a superbly good, functional leg, and I could definitely smash it.”

More information

The Cleveland Clinic has more about limb-lengthening surgery.

SOURCES: David Frumberg, MD, co-director, Yale Limb Restoration and Lengthening Program, Recent Haven, Conn.; Andy Sems, MD, orthopedic surgeon, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.; Alfonso Mascolo, 64, Wolcott, Conn.; CQ

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