I was born with legs of substantially different lengths. As I grew, this length discrepancy eventually became 1-7/8 inches. In grade school, I wore specially-modified shoes with a lift on the right shoe. The lift could not be built to compensate the entire discrepancy. A two-inch lift would have made the shoes unstable.

At 39 years of age, I read an article about a surgeon who restored the leg length of an adult male who had been involved in a motorcycle accident. In such accidents, it is common for the victims to lose a leg. In those cases where the leg can be salvaged, medical convention was to compress the broken bones to promote structural healing and create a strong repair.

I am a Cyber Security Senior Business Systems Analyst retired from Austin Energy.

My treatment and recovery

In a surgical suite under general anesthesia, stainless steel support pins were inserted through the tibia to protrude a few inches. Four pins were used, two on the lower tibia, two on the upper tibia at +/- 90 degrees to each other. Surgical resection of a small length of the fibula, a few inches above to the lateral malleolus. Surgical incision of the tibial periosteum. Insertion of a diamond saw through this incision; the tibia was partially sectioned a few inches below the knee. After partial section of the tibia, the lower leg was mechanically immobilized. The attending surgeon then twisted the foot to cause a serendipitous fracture at the location of the partial section of the tibia. The two incisions were closed, and the external Ilizarov apparatus was assembled to the previously inserted pins. The apparatus supports included knurled knobs which rotated in locked, 1/4-turn increments; one 1/4 turn at 6 hour intervals. This procedure progressively distracted the tibia (still encased in the periosteum), by 1mm per day. After a few days, osteoblasts developed in the gap created by the distraction. During distraction, the supporting pins migrated laterally though the skin, leaving pin-track wounds requiring care to guard against infection. Development was monitored by X-ray. At 47 days post-op, the apparatus was compressed 3mm over 3 days to arrived at the final goal of 44mm of distraction. At this time, distraction was stopped and the new osteoblasts began to develop structural tibia. At 9 months post-op, the apparatus and pins were removed in the clinic with no anesthesia.


Co-ordinate early with a surgeon you trust, and come to a firm agreement on active treatment of post-op, and distraction discomfort.

My Second First

The very first benefit I noticed was that I could buy pants off-the-rack. I no longer had to hem the right pants leg to compensate for a length discrepancy. My hip, knee, and ankle began to recover from being out of kilter, facilitating my martial arts training. My back was saved from potential damage. I gained a good story to tell.


Share your patient story. How did orthopaedic care help you?

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