The Premiere Site For Celebrity Plastic Surgery By A Real Plastic Surgeon

I'm a Michigan-based Board Certified Plastic Surgeon who has been featured on Dr. 90210. The info here is my opinion alone and should not be taken as fact or as medical advice. I've not treated any of the celebrities presented here.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Leg Lengthening Surgery : Urban Legend? Not Really...


There's a fascinating article on Men.Style.Com (Details Magazine) focusing on Leg Lengthening surgery. This is a surgery where the bones of the legs are sawed in half and then gradually allowed to spread apart as new bone grows between the two broken halves. It's called the Ilizarov technique, and has been used for healing fractures for years. It's only recently making news as a technique for making a person taller. The article describes the experiences of several men who have undergone the procedure, some with good, yet others with disastrous results. It's usually performed in other countries such as China and Germany and costs anywhere between $10,000 (cut your legs in half and then chain you to a bed) to $200,000 (they do the same but give you a sandwich too).

Obviously I do not advocate this procedure. Although bone lengthening surgeries are done quite commonly in plastic surgery to treat facial deformities, these are strictly in reconstructive terms. In one syndrome, called hemifacial microsomia, the affected person has one half of their jaw which is underdeveloped. Lengthening can be done of the bone to improve the appearance and function of their jaw. Unfortunately, bone lengthening is a tedious process which can result in a major complication like osteomyelitis (infection of the bone).

In addition, I caution all my patients to be very wary of having a medical procedure performed in another country, since their training and certification processes are different that in the States, and if you were to develop a complication you might be in a big heap of a mess (both medically and financially). If you really want to be taller, learn from Tom Cruise and wear some platform shoes...at least when you're out with your much taller wife.

Thanks for reading.
Michigan-based Plastic Surgeon
Anthony Youn, M.D.
:

10 comments:

flo said...

"China and Germany"? Not quite an adequate comparison don't you think? Of course if you have any evidence that such a risky procedure is in general done more commonly for cosmetic reasons in western europe or Germany in particular then in the US, could you maybe give a quick pointer to that? Also, although you say you would not advocate such a procedure, what is the "official" view on that, e.g. is it generally legal/illegal to perform this type of surgery (for cosmetic reasons) (meaning there is a national regulatory body that allows/forbids it) or is it just that surgeons can perform at will in the US and just you wouldn't, then how do you arrive at the conclusion that these surgeries are performed abroad an not simply in the US, also I would like to know why you believe a western european surgeon would perform such a surgery, under conditions (e.g. purely cosmetic) that you wouldn't?

Anonymous said...

I saw this procedure on a documentary about Little People last year. It showed a girl that had her legs then arms lengthened to help her live in everyday life. It was quite amazing. She eventually ended up being around 5' & you could barely tell except for the cranial features associated with the condition.

It's quite controversial in their community. Quite like the Coclear Implant is controversial in the deaf community.

Dr. Tony Youn said...

Flo
I do not think it is illegal to perform this surgery if a person is a licensed physician. That's how dubious doctors perform mesotherapy and fat-melting injections without breaking the law. I think this extreme surgery is not performed in the States because it usually needs to be performed in a hospital, with the major recovery involved, and most hospitals will not take on that type of crazy liability. Other surgeries that nutty surgeons can perform in their offices (ENT's doing breast augs for example) are fair game...

yishui said...

ew ew ew !

how is it used to heal fractures, though?

Greg said...

First of all, I like your blog very much.
That beeing said, I wonder how I, as a german physician (traumatology) by the way, ought to understand the "China and Germany" thing. China is a developing country and Germany is a country with a long and successful history in medical treatment and research. Helping people get taller is in no way more or less unnecessary than any other surgery performed purely for cometic reasons. So what's the problem? Every surgery performed has it's risks and patients are told that before, so if they take the risk, they should do it in a "proper" country, I think. I wouldn't have any surgery performed in china....

@yishui: If one bone is shorter than the other after a fracture, this method is used to adjust the length of the legs for example.

Anonymous said...

Why is leg lengthening the problem? Shouldn't a person have the right to make their body taller? All types of cosmetic surgery faced questions at the begining and now we fully accept them Don't be a hypocrite

Dr. Tony Youn said...

Anon-
The leg lengthening surgery is a very gruesome one, and that's why there are extremely few surgeons who would perform this. Plus, the risks are quite extreme. There is a reason why we don't do other extreme surgeries, such as rib removal as well.

Anonymous said...

I just ran across this blog researching a surgery a family member just had. He is 12 and one fibia was 2 1/2 inches shorter then the other. The surgery was performed at a Shriners Hospital here in the states and he's doing great. Although he did suffer with a great deal of pain in the first few weeks after the surgery. It wasn't a decision they made lightly. Yes he is only 12, but that is probably the reason they agreed to the surgery.
I had never heard of this surgery until it became an option for him. Thanks for writting about it and letting people know what its all about.

Anonymous said...

I have had this procedure done at 6 years old. I gained almost 2 inches in my left femur.4 years later I had my right leg growth stunted so that I could not grow any taller. I This is a very painful procedure and I can understand why the Dr.s don't want to perform this just for cosmetics. I wish the best for anyone considering getting this procedure.

Anonymous said...

people should get what they want, and that's what democracy is about.
if they are short and they think having the leg lengthening surgery can improve their lives, then they should do it.
fyi, it's legal to perform leg lengthening in JHU's hospital in baltimore, maryland for either medical or cosmetic reason, it's juse really really costly.