PGS.TS Lê Văn Đoàn, Viện trưởng Viện Chấn thương chỉnh hình, Bệnh viện Trung ương Quân đội 108 cho biết:
What is leg lengthening?
Speaking more about this method, Assoc. Prof. Le Van Doan stated that limb lengthening, particularly leg lengthening, is not a complex procedure. This technique has been developed for over a hundred years, originally created to treat patients with leg length discrepancy caused by sequelae from war injuries or labor, cases of osteomyelitis or the need to cut bone tumors; patients suffering from polio; etc.
In Vietnam, since 1995 when polio was eliminated thanks to the expanded vaccination program, the number of cases of leg length discrepancy has also decreased significantly. However, the causes of trauma after accidents and osteoarthritis still cause many patients to suffer from this deformity. In particular, the need to undergo leg lengthening for aesthetic purposes has also increased significantly.
At the Institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedics, 108 Military Central Hospital, each year Assoc. Prof. Doan and his colleagues perform dozens of stature lengthening procedures to increase height. Particularly, the number of male patients is greater than that of female patients. According to the doctor, self-deprecation related to height has hugh impacts on life, which leads to the need for limb lengthening. For men, this type of self-depracation is more clearly felt.
Assoc. Prof., Dr. Le Van Doan said, in theory, the leg length can be stretched as much as possible, depending on the needs of the patient. But experts always advise them of the right length that is proportional to the body as well as ensure minimal complications.
Regarding the method of implementation, in the past, we used the osteotomy method, piercing 8 nails through the bone and installing an external fixator to slowly stretch at a rate of 1mm per day. Thus, if you wanted to extend 7 cm, it would take 70 days. When it reached 7 cm, it ws still necessary to wear the frame for the next 7 months to make the bone strong, then you could remove the fixator. So the patient had to wear the fixator for a long time up to 10 months, which was very cumbersome in daily life. Now, thanks to the application of new advancement, before performing osteotomy, doctors will put a nail in the bone marrow canal, using only 4 small nails through the two ends of the bone. When stretched to full length, the fixator will be removed. The nail located in the canal will hold the role of fixation while waiting for the cavity to solidify. Thus, with this new method, external fixation duration has been shortened, to only ¼ of its original duration, the early removal of the fixator help the patient to quickly return to daily work and life. The scars are also small and their number is reduce greatly.
Who can undergo leg lengthening?
According to Assoc. Prof. Le Van Doan, indications for leg lengthening are only for people of short stature (female under 150cm, male under 160cm) or people suffering from deformities and injuries. This technique does not apply to cases where leg length discrepancy is not more than 3 cm. With a small discrepancy, it can be improved by simply adding a shoe sole which is much easier.
Regarding the appropriate age to perform leg lengthening, this expert said that it should be between 20 and 30 years old because at that time, the surgeon can determine the perfect height. After the age of 35, the bones begin to age, so they are no longer suitable for prolonged surgery.
After the lengthening, will the leg get weak?
Regarding this relatively common concern, Assoc. Prof. Doan said, limb lengthening does not in fact affect the life expectancy of the surgical patients like many might mistakenly believe. However, after the process, the soft tissues (tendons, muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and ligaments) cannot keep up with the new situation right away. Therefore, rehabilitation exercises are recommended for a while, the duration will depend on the natural disposition of the body and specific desired length. When the muscles, bones and joints have been stable and had good exercise and the lengthened limbs are healthy, the patient can walk, jump, dance, and return to normal life.