Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children doctor speaking with patient and reviewing chart

Sep 03, 2015 / Limb Lengthening

5 Common Questions About Limb Lengthening

If your limbs aren’t the same length, you can experience problems as you grow. In some cases, doctors can use a limb-lengthening device to even your limbs out, making it easier for you to live an active, healthy life. If you’re curious about what limb lengthening involves and how it will affect your day-to-day life, you’ll find the answers you’re looking for here.

Do I Have to Have Surgery?

If the difference between the lengths of your limbs is significant (more than 1 inch), you may need surgery to correct the condition. At Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, physicians have developed an advanced device called the TRUE/LOK™ External Fixation System, a modification of the Ilizarov Frame, that helps your limb grow over a number of months. This device is attached to your body during surgery.

How Does the Limb-Lengthening Device Work?

During surgery, doctors separate the bone in your shorter limb. The TRUE/LOK™ External Fixation System has rods that are attached to this part of the bone. These rods are connected to an external frame attached to the outside of your limb. The frame will support your limb while the rods help the bone to grow. Over the course of many months, your limb could be lengthened by up to 6 inches!

Will Limb Lengthening Hurt?

During surgery, you’ll be under anesthesia, so you won’t feel a thing. As you wear the frame, however, you may experience some discomfort. Some patients feel soreness when they have to turn the rods to help their bones lengthen. Your doctor may be able to give you medication to minimize the pain. In addition, Scottish Rite Hospital has psychologists who can teach you other ways to manage your pain.

How Long Will I Wear the Frame?

The amount of time you will need to wear the frame will be determined by how much your limb needs to grow. For most patients, the TRUE/LOK™ only needs to be worn for six to nine months. During that time, you’ll turn the rods several times per day to help the bone in your limb grow. Most of the bone lengthening actually takes place in the first few months. After that, the frame is worn for stability as your bones heal into place.

Can I Still Act Like a Normal Kid?

After you spend a little time healing from your surgery, you can go back to school. You can also participate in your favorite activities while you wear the frame, including most sports. You can even go swimming as long as you swim in a salinated or chlorinated pool. Your wardrobe may need to be adjusted to include pants, shorts, or skirts that fit over your TRUE/LOK™ frame. Because you’ll only have to visit the doctor every couple of weeks, you’ll essentially be able to keep up your regular routine.

Think of limb lengthening like wearing braces on your teeth. It causes a little discomfort at the time, but it’s worth it in the long run.. You’ll be in great hands when you have your limb lengthening done by the experts at Scottish Rite Hospital.