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Rom J Intern Med. 2012 Jan-Mar;50(1):43-59.

Upper and lower limb length equalization: diagnosis, limb lengthening and curtailment, epiphysiodesis.

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"Maria Sklodowska Curie" Emergency Hospital for Children, Bucharest, Romania.



This article contains notions and guidelines derived from the current therapeutic approach used in the Pediatric Orthopedics Clinic of "M.S. Curie" Hospital, Bucharest. The purpose of this work is to illustrate the clinic's experience theoretically and by means of images.


This article is based on 25 years of clinical experience (1986-2011), gained at Mangalia Regional Hospital and the Pediatric Orthopedics Clinic of "M.S. Curie" Hospital in Bucharest, having treated more than 250 such cases. In post-traumatic shortenings with associated soft tissue injuries we used double leveled corticotomies and lengthening. The lengthening rarely exceeded 10 cm, especially for congenital deformities and repeated lengthening. From 2001 onwards, all lengthening operations included the intramedullary implantation of one or two TEN rods, with the purpose of reducing the time to fixator removal and to shrink the healing index. In the last five years we frequently used minimally invasive osteotomies after the placement of TEN implants, achieving the separation of a small fragment that sites itself between the major fragments. The lengthening rate was 1 mm per day, broken down in four steps (0.25 mm every 6 hours). For difficult cases, such as congenital pseudarthroses or the presence of scar tissue around the osteotomy site, we recommended 0.75 mm of lengthening per day (0.25 mm every 8 hours). For congenital pseudarthroses we used controlled epiphysiolysis and bone transport. For inequalities ranging 3 to 5 cm we used temporary epiphysiodesis, initially with staples, and subsequently with "8", "H" and "I" plates. Limb shortening followed by locked intramedullary fixation was reserved for those patients who did not follow through with the evaluation program and who could not benefit from temporary epiphysiodesis.


The amount of lengthening per segment varied between 3 and 17 cm. The longest staged lengthening measured 20 cm, in two stages, and the greatest overall lengthening was 25 cm for an entire lower limb. An appropriate stabilization, followed by the adequate choice of osteotomy site and the postoperative weight loading of the limb ensured a quick and qualitative healing process.


Less than half of the patients suffered complications, most of them being minor ones. Pseudarthroses have been treated by compaction of the site, followed by distraction, and/or the injection of BMP (Bone Morphogenic Protein). We saw no complications after epiphysiodesis or limb shortening.


Limb lengthening procedures up to 5 cm lead to rapid consolidation and minimal complications. Lengthenings exceeding 5 cm require a good psychological preparation and careful monitoring. In lengthenings more than 10 cm, a faster rate of consolidation requires a double corticotomy, the use of intramedullary fixation and the immobilization of adjacent joints. In Lobstein's disease, good results can be obtained by the use of an Ilizarov external fixator. Restoring limb length equality by temporary epiphysiodesis, around the age of 10-12, is the least aggressive method and is very effective. Limb shortening by segmental resection should become obsolete.

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