How far would you go to grow a little taller?
A recent article by RealSelf revealed that some patients would do just about anything for a couple of extra inches on their frame. The story highlights one very extreme type of orthopedic surgery called bone stretching, or distraction osteogenesis.
Normally, bone stretching surgery is used to treat patients with legs of uneven or very short lengths. These procedures are most commonly performed in children, whose bones are still growing, but some adults are also good candidates for this type of surgery.
However, this surgery is not for the faint of heart.
Bone stretching surgery involves a series of many procedures. The bone to be stretched is sawed in half, and then orthopedic surgeons place metal pins into the skin and bone. These pins are attached to a metal device that wraps around the limb, which works to slowly pull the bone apart and create a space for new bone to grow. This process is usually repeated several times, and is excruciatingly painful; but it can ultimately add up to 6 inches to the limb’s final length.
Going to such extreme (and painful) measures may be hard to understand for most people, but for patients with the above-mentioned conditions, bone stretching surgery can greatly increase their quality of life.
But what about those without any serious medical issues?
RealSelf reported that bone stretching surgery is now being offered as a cosmetic procedure. Men and women all over the world are spending more than $50,000 to saw their perfectly good legs in half, in hopes of growing taller.
Dr. Jean-Marc Guichet is a French surgeon and distraction osteogenesis pioneer. He offers cosmetic bone stretching surgery at his clinic.
He told the Daily Mail, “The requests have trebled in the past ten years.”
Although this new cosmetic surgery trend may seem pretty shocking, people from many different cultures have been altering their bodies for thousands of years. Plastic surgery procedures like breast augmentation, liposuction and nose surgery are incredibly common, and while they are quite invasive, nothing compares to the intense nature of bone stretching.
Because of the major commitment (the entire process can take up to a year and a half) and risk involved in this procedure, Dr. Guichet only accepts about 20 to 30 percent of patient consultations for surgery.
He told the Daily Mail, “I will only do it if I am sure that the patient really wants it, will make a complete recovery and regain all functions. Patients must be fit and healthy, with strong bones, and be seriously committed to the operation.”
Dr. Guichet also added, “The surgery is not for the faint-hearted. Patients have to prepare physically by building up muscle strength in their legs.”
Now, come the questions of ethics: How could a surgeon perform this type of procedure on a patient who doesn’t really need it? While cosmetic surgery does come with risks, they don’t measure up to those associated with sawing a perfectly good, functioning limb in half.
Although people do have the right to do what they please with their bodies, shouldn’t there be more regulations in place for the use of bone stretching as a cosmetic procedure?
Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brett Rocos is also hesitant about the nature of this surgery.
He told RealSelf, “You are creating a new fracture in the bone every few days and the worry would be faulty healing. The new bone might not form completely, or heal in an unusual shape so that the bone becomes deformed. As a purely cosmetic operation, it’s not worth the risk.”
While it’s true that medical technology allows people to create the body of their dreams, a little extra height doesn’t seem worth the pain, time, and risks associated with cosmetic bone stretching surgery.
To boost self-confidence (and height) patients should try springing for taller shoes instead; they’re a whole lot cheaper and virtually painless…especially when compared to distraction osteogenesis.
To learn more about bone stretching surgery (distraction osteogenesis), contact an orthopedic surgeon near you.
Image Courtesy of Corbis
RealSelf Blog. “Men and Women Purposely Saw Legs in Half to Grow Taller”. Web. Jan. 6, 2012. http://www.realself.com/blog/men-purposely-legs-in-grow-taller
Daily Mail. “Would you spend £34,000 to be 3 INCHES taller? Your thigh bone sawn in half, then months hobbling with a frame”. Web. Jan. 3, 2012. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2080771/Would-spend-34-000-3-INCHES-taller-Thomas-Keeper-thigh-bone-sawn-half-spent-months-hobbling-frame.html
Medline Plus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Leg lengthening and shortening”. Web. Jan. 16, 2012. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002965.htm
The information on this site is not a substitute for diagnosis or treatment from a licensed medical practitioner. If you are experiencing a serious medical condition call your local emergency services or your doctor.