Limb-lengthening surgery was first developed for use mainly in remedying injuries caused by accidents and preexisting conditions. Although the procedure itself has changed very little since its original conception in 1951, it is now being utilized frequently for cosmetic purposes.
The surgical procedure, often referred to as the Ilizarov method, was first developed by Gavriil Ilizarov, the eldest of six who grew up in a Jewish household in Poland. During his medical residency he created an external fixator, a circular frame with tensioned wires, which would cause stress on the bone, thus resulting in regeneration of the tissues. For years he was thought to be a medical quack but steady streams of successful surgical results began turning heads. A major tipping point in his career came after he was able to treat the 1964 Olympic champion, Valeriy Brumel, following a motorcycle incident in 1964. His device was introduced to the United States 30 years after its initial development.
Bone growth is fairly predictable, therefore, results were relatively consistent from surgeon to surgeon. A hole is drilled in the leg bones, which are fractured. The external fixator is connected to the leg using rods which are then lengthened up to 1mm a day. Essentially, the bone is stretched a small amount each day until the desired height is reached, then the bone is allowed to fuse back together. Asian countries including Turkey and India have seen a rise in demand for such procedures. Altering one’s height can have the potential to improve self-esteem and increase marriage prospects. Unfortunately, many countries do not have proper regulations when it comes to cosmetic surgeries and medical personnel lack experience. The consequences of a botched limb-lengthening procedure can be extreme. Not only is it expensive to get done, but it also has a long recovery time and can have dangerous complications. Some of these complications can include intense pain, nerve damage, blood clots, infection, unsatisfactory results, and the possibility that the bone does not fuse properly; leaving the patient crippled.
Gavriil Ilizarov has been nicknamed, “the magician from Kurgan,” for his methods. His limb-lengthening surgeries have improved the lives of people all across the world. There is really something to be said when a procedure existing since 1951 has been changed so little over the decades and yet continues to offer relief to those in need of it.
Until Next Time
· “‘I have to be taller’ The Unregulated World of India’s Limb Lengthening Industry.”The Guardian. 8 mAy, 2016. Accessed 4/16/2023. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/09/i-have-to-be-taller-the-unregulated-world-of-indias-limb-lengthening-industry.
- “Ilizarov Surgery.” Golden State Orthopedics and Spine. Accessed 4/16/2023. https://www.goldenstateortho.com/ilizarov-surgery/#:~:text=What%20is%20the%20Ilizarov%20Technique,(usually%20of%20the%20limb).