Sunday, May 30, 2021

Growing Taller With The Ilizarov Fixator?

Picture from Quora

A friend fractured his arm after falling asleep while driving in the army. He had a huge circular contraption on his arm upon discharge from the hospital. This was when I first came across the Ilizarov fixator back in the 1990's. Of course I did not know what it was or what it was supposed to do back then.

It was only in my second year of physiotherapy school that I studied about it and saw it in the hospital orthopaedic wards, that I remembered my friend had the same thing on his arm. I never imagined that knowledge learnt all those years ago would help me write today's post.

The surgery was first invented by Russian doctor Gavriil Ilizarov to treat bone fractures that did not heal well. Especially those with fractures that did not grow back (non-union), those that had leg length discrepancies after breaking their legs and complex factures. The method and first prototype he designed was actually inspired by a shaft bow harness on a horse carriage using parts of a bicycle.

Picture by Troika Akron

The Ilizarov fixator is a ring-like brace that has a frame applied to the outside of the limb and connected through the unbroken part of the bone inside the limb via Kirschner or K wires. This provides more structural support than other external fixators and allows for early weight bearing.

Pic by Ahmad Zamani 

Many people around the world, obsessed with growing taller, are now resorting to using the Ilizarov fixator to extend their legs in a bid to make themselves taller. These people want to get ahead since they assume that by being taller they may get better chances in job interviews, modelling assignments, showbiz, colleges and even spouses.

You can get the procedure done in the USA, UK, Germany, Pain, Turkey, Italy, South Korea, India and China. Prices range from $USD 75,000-280,000 in the USA, 50,000-56,000 pounds in the UK to $USD 25,000 in India.

For the procedure, the leg bones are first broken in two, holes are then drilled into the bone.  A metal rod is fitted inside and held in place by a number of screws and wires. This rod is slowly and gradually lengthened by up to 1 mm a day. This continues until the patient reaches their desired height and their bones are then allowed to heal.

Several months of daily physiotherapy/ rehabilitation are then required to regain mobility. Yes, the patient has to learn how to walk again. If not done carefully, there are many complications like nerve injuries (since nerves have to stretch to match the lengthened limbs), blood clots and even the possibility of the bones not fusing back together. 

At times, the bones fuse but are not strong enough to bear the patient's body weight. Limbs can also end up being of different lengths, and shape, deforming knee and ankle joints.

Having surgery to grow taller is seen as cosmetic surgery, but there's no doubt it's also done for their self confidence and mental health. My main concern is the patients that prioritize cost over their own welfare. In my opinion, it is important to find a surgeon with a good track record no matter what surgery you may be considering.


Borzunov DY, KolChin S and Malkova TA (2020). Role Of The Non-free Bone Plasty In The Management Of Long Bone Defects And Non-union: Problems solved and Unsolved. World J Ortho. 11(6): 304-318. DOI: 10.5312/wjo.v11.i6.304.

Gubin AV, Borzunov DY and Malkova TA (2013). The Ilizarov Paradigm: Thirty Years With The Ilizarov Method, Current Concerns And Future Research. Int Orthop. 37(8): 1533-1539. DOI: 10.1007/s00264-013-1935-0.

Before vs after by Dr S R Rozbrusch from BBC

No comments:

Post a Comment