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The Purpose of Cosmetic Limb Lengthening

May 31, 20238 min read

“If done right, the surgery provides favorable height gain and satisfaction with a low rate of major complications.” - Joel

The Purpose of Cosmetic Stature Lengthening

Introduction:

Being of shorter stature is a well-known stigma, especially with studies that have demonstrated that people of taller stature are often more successful than their shorter peers. However, there is now an elective procedure that can be used to increase one’s height. This paper goes out to both those who suffer from a relatively short stature regularly and those who publish deeply flawed and false information in an attempt to demonize the procedure, despite the benefits it can have. I know about this surgery due to a personal story that is a saddening one. During my days in Middle School, I was taller than roughly 85% of my grade-appropriate peers. However, once High School rolled around, those peers were quick to catch up and in some cases even surpass me. I currently stand at roughly 5 feet and 9.7 inches tall (177 cm) which is below the average height of a man of my ethnic background of English, Irish, and Scandinavian which is roughly 5 feet and 10.5 inches (179 cm). The issue comes where misinformation and flawed methodology is argued as to why the surgery should not be done. These unfair demonizations are a problem for people like myself who have every reason to feel upset over their current stature.

Research

Being of shorter stature often comes with numerous disadvantages compared to taller peers. A 2013 study from Psychiatry Research (Freeman et. al. 348-352) journal concluded that taller stature was often associated with dominance and increased social confidence. On the other hand, shorter stature was associated with the opposite effects. Paranoia was a noted effect that came with the shorter stature in the study. The study also pointed out that men with shorter stature suffered from stigma more so than women with shorter stature. This study suggests that shorter stature can hinder one’s confidence and can make one appear as weaker than their taller counterparts. Another study by the Journal of Applied Psychology found that taller people often make more money than their shorter peers. A 6-foot-tall person on average earns an additional $166,000 more than a person who is 5 feet and 5 inches tall. The study even stated that every additional inch of height may be worth up to an additional $789 per year. (Judge et al. 428-441) Overall, the study seems to confirm the popular belief that being taller and being successful are indeed linked. These problems with a relatively shorter stature have long been documented, however, and it was often thought that there were no permanent solutions to these issues even when it came to orthopedics.

A bit of background...

Recently, however, all this seems to change with cosmetic limb-lengthening surgery for prospective patients. It is worth noting that leg-lengthening surgeries have existed since the technique was invented by Russian physician, Gavrill Ilizarov in the 1950s to treat injured Soviet soldiers from World War II, the technology has evolved by leaps and bounds. The advancements in technology have allowed for both this surgery to be done for cosmetic purposes as well as more modern and less invasive devices. The old external fixator lengthening devices have largely been ditched and replaced by the more modern internal lengthening rod. This internal rod allows for a far less invasive procedure that can favorably increase height with a low rate of major complications. The maximum amount that can be lengthened varies on a patient-to-patient basis. The surgery can also be used to correct deformities using the same or similar techniques as for cosmetic purposes.

Myths and Misinformation

Misinformation and myths are huge problems when it comes to the credibility of the procedure. Despite the proven methods and overall safety, this procedure uses misinformation and flawed methodologies that are used in an attempt to demonize the surgery's need to stop. In a popular question-and-answer website, Quora, Medical Doctor Raghuraj Hedge uses a flawed methodology to describe the surgery’s impact on the bones, muscles, and tissues. As was quickly pointed out in replies to the flawed answer, user Nipun Gupta, a medical student explains why the analogy Hedge used comparing bones to clay sticks was incorrect. In the reply, Gupta points out how the muscles and blood vessels adapt to their new length after being stretched over time, as well as how the bone is not weakened since they are separated and new bone fills in the gap, therefore the bone is lengthened and the tissue adapts to the newer length.

Flawed methodologies, however, are not the only attempt at demonizing the surgery. Numerous myths such as how there are non-operational methods to increase or how the surgery is extremely risky are not true and must be debunked. The reason there aren’t any non-operational methods has to do with bone growth and fusion. Because once your growth plates close, they will stay that way, meaning there are no non-operative methods to increase your height afterward. Height pills and exercises will not work after the growth plates fuse. Surgery is the only option to increase your height once your growth plates fuse (“Popular Myths”). The other popular myth that the surgery is highly risky is also not true. It is true that limb lengthening, along with every other medical procedure, has its own set of risks and complications associated with it. However, as mentioned above, the rates for these major complications are low and even less risky than many other common medical procedures. There is also often the image used of the old Ilizarov external device that looks very gruesome. However, this is often used as a scare tactic. The truth is that these outdated external devices have been largely abandoned for more modern and less invasive internal devices mentioned earlier carry fewer risks of major complications and are less painful and invasive. These advances must be recognized so that the surgery can be both recognized in a better light and for the prospective patients to understand the truth of the surgery.

Going forward

It is also essential to make sure that the surgery is performed by someone reputable and credible in the field. (“The Doctors Media Clip - Would You Undergo Surgery to Grow a Few Inches Taller?” 9:12) The surgery is a highly expensive one that can cost over $76,000.00. (“Paying $76,000) And even that depends on numerous factors of what is covered in the payment, the stay in the city with the hospital, and any other things that may factor into the pricing. While it is true that there are much cheaper clinics in countries like India or Russia, the technology won’t be as good for the most part, and being “butchered” becomes far more likely with the often outdated technology used in those countries. It is also worth noting that since limb lengthening is a huge procedure it should be done by those only with the aptitude, those who have proven their expertise in the field of orthopedics and lengthening. When the surgery is done by someone who is unreputable, the chances for major complications skyrocket. In China, the surgery was banned in 2006 after malpractice. This was because untrained and unqualified people were receiving medical licenses and being allowed to perform the procedure despite their inaptitude to do so, which resulted in a large number of patients experiencing major complications. Leg Lengthening should be performed by those only with the aptitude and talent to do so. It is very important to pick a reputable surgeon that has good results and positive satisfaction from their patients.

The reasons above, as well as the negative experiences I had, should more than justify my outrage and frustration with the numerous misinformation and deeply-flawed methodology that is used to demonize the surgery that I dream of achieving in the not-so-distant future to get the additional 2.5 to 3 inches that I feel I should have gotten to reach at or over 6 feet tall. I have even often wondered if my height has held me back from happiness. People like myself need to be taken into consideration when it comes to the importance of such a procedure. It should be noted that when the procedure is done by someone reputable, the surgery is often a successful one, however, this is only for those who choose reputable surgeons. If done right, the surgery provides favorable height gain and satisfaction with a low rate of major complications. It is very important, once again, for both medical and non-medical people alike to understand this.

References

Catagni et al. “Cosmetic bilateral leg lengthening.” Bone & Joint Research, online.boneandjoint.org.uk/doi/full/10.1302/0301-620X.87B10.16468

Freeman et al. “Height, social comparison, and Paranoia: An immersive virtual reality experimental study.” ScienceDirect, sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165178113007774?via%3Dihub

Guerreschi, and Tsibidakis “Cosmetic lengthening: What are the limits?” European Paediatric Orthopedic Society, journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1007/s11832-016-0791-z

Hedge, Raghurahj. Raghurahj Hedge’s answer to “Should a 5'5" 25-year-old guy get the leg lengthening surgery?” Quora. 1 Sep. 2016, quora.com/Should-a-55-25-year-old-guy-get-the-leg-lengthening-surgery?no_redirect=1quora.com/Should-a-55-25-year-old-guy-get-the-leg-lengthening-surgery?no_redirect=1

Judge, T. A., & Cable, D. M. “The Effect of Physical Height on Workplace Success and Income: Preliminary Test of a Theoretical Model.” Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 89, no. 3, July-Aug. 2004, pp. 14. doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.89.3.428

“Limb Lengthening Surgery: Popular Myths” Wanna be taller, 4 Jul. 2022, wannabetaller.com/limb-lengthening-surgery-popular-myths/

Marwan et al. “Cosmetic stature lengthening.” Bone & Joint Research, online.boneandjoint.org.uk/doi/full/10.1302/2046-3758.97.BJR-2019-0379.R1

Naftulin, Julia. “Men are paying $76,000 for a limb-extending surgery that involves breaking leg bones and inserting nails and screws” Insider, 9 Jan. 2020, insider.com/men-paying-for-limb-extending-surgery-to-be-tall-2020-1

“The Doctors Media Clip - Would You Undergo Surgery to Grow a Few Inches Taller?” YouTube, uploaded by The LimbplastX Institute, 14 Aug. 2020, youtube.com/watch?v=IHkmLfBwYjI


Joel

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