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Advancements In Limb Lengthening Technology

By Victor Egonu | Leg Lengthening Surgery

Jun 10

Really there’s 3 different categories of lengthening devices. You have your solely external fixators, you have the advanced internal nails or plates and you have the hybrid versions. 

Well let’s just say that people way smarter than me are working to improve it every day. Perhaps there may be a new internal device coming really soon. And perhaps there’s also research groups out there who want to develop a less invasive, less painful and more cost-effective method all together?

More...

So first up...

Externals

  1. External Ring Fixators (Ilizarov, Taylor Spatial Frame [hexapod])

The original limb lengthening technology is none other than the classic external ring fixator like the Ilizarov, and nowadays, the more common Taylor Spatial Frame, which is a hexapod-cylindrical outer-space looking metal frame that has 6 telescopic struts to help lengthen and or correct deformities with ease. The metal pins go through your soft tissue to lock into your bone where you can then turn the knobs to distract and gain length in the bone.

These circular external fixators are usually more applicable to the tibia of the lower leg due to their size, and even then, they’re still a bit heavy & cumbersome with a greater potential for infection if the pin sites aren’t kept clean. 

With all that said they’re still the go-to device for those with severe deformities from trauma or birth defects, but they work just as well to lengthen bones.

  1. Monolateral Fixators 

These are uni-planar frames that also have metal pins that insert into the bone from the outside and are more appropriate for use on the femurs or for those with conditions requiring arm lengthening.

Alright next up…

Internals

  1. Internal Nails

These telescopic internal rods are the latest and greatest in limb lengthening technology as they are inserted directly into the medullary canal of your bones at which point they are locked into place with screws and distracted to lengthen the bone. 

Although there are many variations, the most advanced are the magnetized lengthening rods like the titanium PRECICE nail. There have been several advancements in this nail alone from versions 1 to 2 to 2.1 to 2.2 to the most recent stainless steel version, The PRECICE-STRYDE aka The Stryde nail which is so amazing it allows for full weight bearing immediately post-op. But don’t be reckless and still be cautious when moving around.

These internal nails are fantastic for those with limb length discrepancies, stature lengthening for those with achondroplasia or hypochondroplasia, the two most common forms of dwarfism, and of course those interested in the cosmetic aspect of limb lengthening to get taller. 

Hybrid

  1. ByLON & LATN (also LAP to an extent)

Now comes the combo method of lengthening devices.

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The LON and LATN both require two surgeries for completion. Simply put, they were developed as a combination of an external fixator alongside an internal rod to reduce the amount of time needed to wear the external frame. 

First, a standard (non-telescopic) internal nail is implanted inside the bone and the external fixator is put on. Then comes the lengthening phase via an external fixator. After distraction is complete, the nail is fully locked in place to maintain that length, at which time the external frame is taken off. Finally you just let the bone heal as normal with the rod inside.

The LATN method is similar, only difference being that in the first procedure, only the external frame is used to gain the desired length after which the standard internal nail is implanted to hold bone in place for consolidation healing and the external frame removed. 

Internals vs. Externals?

So then comes the question...Which of these lengthening methods is more effective?

Well the external fixators are best for deformity correction but can also be used for lengthening. But if your only goal is to get taller or fix a leg length discrepancy, then the internal nail will win out a majority of the time. 

The benefits of internals simply outclass the externals in the following ways.

  • They’re more accurate distraction rate (via ERC)
  • They allow faster recovery bone healing time (weight bearing sooner via STRYDE nail)
  • There’s less chance of complications (such as infections)
  • You maintain better flexibility and ROM (less bulk due to no external frame in the way)
  • Less scarring from the device
  • And even less chance of having a slight leg length discrepancy after all is said and done

The only real drawbacks being that these internal devices are much more costly than externals. So if price is a factor in your decision process, an external fixator could be a solution for you. 

So we’ve gone from only externals to a mix of externals and internals to only internals. Where next. How does LL technology advance from here on out?

Leave your comment below the post and let's chat!

By: Victor Egonu

About the Author

Victor Egonu is the Founder of Cyborg 4 Life. With an Masters in Biomedical Sciences as well as certified fitness coach, this Drug-Free Pro Bodybuilder is on a mission to help all those considering Leg Lengthening Surgery to better their lives

  • Suri says:

    Hi.the internals are they going to be visible to others like externals after surgery? Like post op.and what is the recovery time for a 6cm increase?and please let me know the cost charged for internals by Dr Kevin Debiparshad.

    • Victor Egonu says:

      Hi Suri, the internals will be inside your bones so besides the minor incision sites you won’t know they’re there. A 6cm increase recovery time depends on the limbs you get done. If you get the femurs done, it would be closer to 8 weeks lengthening + 4 weeks recovery so 3 months and for tibias most people don’t go over 5 cm and will see a similar time frame. I’m not sure on his pricing exactly but I believe it’s $85k +. But that isn’t a full package and additional interventions like releases are extra. Someone like Dr. Paley will include everything in one package so beware when looking how to price your procedure to make sure you are getting the best value for your investment.

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