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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Limb Reconstruction

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Limb length discrepency

Limb lengthening is when we are able to help you gain more length on one or more of your limbs (a leg, arm, finger or toe). It is achieved by a special operation and a special external device, and performed when the patient has a medical need for correcting the length of a limb.

Problems with growth plates

Sometimes there may be a problem with the growth plates in your long bones.

For example, in the lower leg below the knee joint we normally have two bones which make up the shin bone, called the tibia and the fibula. If the tibia has a problem with the growth plate (the cartilage area which controls the length of this long bone) it may cause that bone to grow slowly, or not at all. This may cause problems if the other bone, the fibula, continues to grow at the correct rate.

  • In the long term, it may cause problems with the surrounding joints, the knee or the ankle.
  • Occasionally your back may become sore because of the pelvic tilt when walking and standing.

Growth plates are in the top and bottom of all long bones, and therefore this problem can occur in any of them. For example the toes and fingers are long bones, as well as the thigh bones and the arm bones.

Hemimelia

Hemimelia is the total absence or extreme shortening of a long bone. This usually affects the arm and leg bones.

You may have been born with a short limb or without fingers or toes. Some disorders, such as Turner Syndrome or polio, may also affect a limb's growth.

Other causes

You may have had an injury in the past which has caused one limb to be shorter than its opposite side, or you may have an area of diseased bone which needs to be removed; this would leave you with a shorter bone which would need to be lengthened.