There are several reasons why children have different long legs. It does not usually cause any trouble if the length differs less than two centimeters between the legs. Growth can be stopped in the longer leg or the shorter leg can be extended if it differs widely between the legs.
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The doctor then regularly examines whether the difference between the length of the legs increases, stays unchanged or even decreases. The checks usually take place once a year.
By x-raying the skeleton in the baby’s hand, the doctor can see if the baby is still growing or if the baby is growing ready. It is also possible to get an estimate of how long the child will grow. The doctor can also see the child’s skeletal age.
The legs need to be x-rayed so that the doctor can get a more accurate idea of the difference in length if they are considering an operation.
Treatment of different long legs in children
No treatment of different long legs in children is usually needed if the length is less than two centimeters between the legs. Sometimes a shoe insert or shoe extension can be helpful in reducing the difference.
The longer leg growth is stopped
It is possible to stop the growth in the longer leg by means of an operation. This will destroy the growth zone at the bottom of the femur or at the top of the tibia. This is done by the doctor drilling in the leg. Sometimes the growth zone on both the femur and tibia is destroyed.
The child is anesthetized when the procedure is performed. After a few days, the child is usually able to come home from the hospital. They may go with crutches in the beginning, but can then go without crutches, as long as it does not hurt.
When the operation is to be done is determined on the basis of the child’s skeletal age and tables that have been developed to assess how much the child has left to grow. The result can be worse if the procedure is done prematurely. The shorter leg can continue to grow too long if the surgery is done too late.
The legs may not always be as long after an operation. A difference of up to two centimeters when the child is fully grown is a good result.
It is possible to shorten a fully grown bone
It is also possible to shorten the longer leg after the baby has grown. Then the doctor looks away from the femur, just below the hip joint. The femur is then stabilized with screw and plate until it has healed.
This procedure is more difficult to do and can cause more complications, therefore it is only done in exceptional cases.
Treatment at leg length difference over five centimeters
The short leg can be extended if the difference between the length of the legs is greater than five centimeters. It is possible to adjust very large differences between the length of the legs. The child is anesthetized when the procedure is performed.
First, the doctor attaches an instrument near the hip joint or knee joint with coarse pins or screws.
The doctor then saws through the hard, outer part of the leg. They do not see through the inner part of the leg.
The treatment of different long legs in children can be painful for the child because it hurts and the treatment is ongoing for a longer period.
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