This Unorthodox Procedure Makes Short People A Foot Taller
IF ONLY THERE WAS ANOTHER WAY! Whattup shorties, short Jules here for a DNews short. I am five-foot-eight, which is below the average height for an adult American male, roughly five-foot-nine-and-a-half. For our entire lives, we’ve been told that there is nothing we can really do about being short. For most everything else, there is plastic surgery, or medication, or some other solution, while us shorties are stuck with shoe lifts and pinstripes. But what if I told you vertically challenged friends that there is a way to grow taller, even as a fully grown adult. The only catch? Well, you have to break your legs. A medical procedure, called “distraction osteogenesis”, can actually lengthen your bones by a few inches, and was originally developed to treat those with uneven leg lengths, or dwarfism. This is essentially done by breaking the bone, then separating or stretching it for the bone to heal in a longer position.
Today it is mostly used to treat disorders of the face, where the jaw or chin or skull may not be the right size, or growing in the right direction. But in China, this surgery saw popularity around the early 2000s, and is still being done around the world as a cure for, well, shortness. There are three stages to the heightening procedure. The first is called the “latency phase”.
The legbone, usually the tibia, is either fully separated, or just cut into what is essentially a fracture. The second, ‘distraction phase’ introduces a separating device, often a Ilizarov apparatus. This surrounds the leg and bolts into the bone, allowing not only stabilization, but separation. Each day, the device separates the two parts of the tibia by about one millimeter. While the device separates the bone, a callus forms at the site of the break. As the bone is spread farther and farther apart, the callus is resorbed and replaced by a collagen structure.
Collagen is a protein that forms the connective tissues in our bodies. New blood vessels grow around this collagen and special cells called osteoblasts move in to create the actual bone material. At this stage though, the bone material has not mineralized, or become fully hard. Once the desired length is reached, which often tops out at just a few inches, the final phase begins: consolidation. In this phase, the bone material mineralizes -- and this takes about a month for each centimeter in length!. The now slightly taller patient just has to undergo several months of physical therapy to learn how to walk again. As you might imagine, the whole process is very painful.
And, according to a study published in 2014 by the European Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology, 77% of patients experience complications, and 70% of those complications were major, including axis deviation, or leg alignment, hardening of joints, and psychological problems. The Hospital for Special Surgery in the US claims to have added up to a full foot in height to those with dwarfism, although most people are only able to achieve a height boost of a few inches. So, yes, you can get taller. But in most cases, you might not want to. So how much force does it take to break a bone anyway? We answer that question in this video. And if you have any other bone or body questions for us, let us know down below in the comments and don't forget to subscribe for more DNews everyday.
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