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Limb Lengthening and Deformity

Deformities of the limbs include bowlegs (varus deformity), knock knees (valgus deformity), limb length discrepancies, and other conditions. Limb length discrepancies are commonly caused by a poorly healed fracture, a disease, or a congenital defect.

Pain in the hip, knee, and ankle can often be caused by bowlegs (such as in Blount's disease) or knock knees. In other words, when our legs are not aligned straight at the hips, knees, and ankles, there can be an abnormal force across the knee. This often leads to pain, cosmetic deformity, and premature knee arthritis.

Surgical correction can help treat the deformity. Thanks to the Ilizarov procedures, developed in the 1950s by Russian physician Gavriil Abramovich Ilizarov, surgeons can correct the length discrepancy, but also address any associated deformity. With minimally invasive treatment, the leg can be realigned. As a result, patients feel less pain, look better, and have healthier knees.

Limb lengthening is achieved by gradual separation of a cut or defect across a long bone in the arm or leg, taking advantage of the body's own ability to create new bone across the gradual lengthening defect. Surrounding soft tissues, ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves also lengthen to support the elongated new bone. During the gradual lengthening the limb is stabilized with internal pins or rods connected to external fixation devices or frames. The limb is lengthened as new bone grows and consolidates in the gradually elongated interval of the bone.

Ian Gillen was an athlete on his way to play Division I basketball, until he was diagnosed with a large bone tumor in the middle of his tibia, resulting in doctors removing 17cm of bone from his leg. Ian turned to the doctors at Hospital for Special Surgery to help him get back onto the basketball court. This video follows Ian through his limb lengthening reconstruction and recovery process.

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