Limb-length differences

Your questions answered

What are limb-length differences in children?

Put simply, limb-length difference refers to variations in the length of arms or legs. In children, this condition can be caused by a number of factors, including genetics, trauma, infection, or congenital issues. These differences vary from child to child, and can affect both their mobility and development.

I’m worried my child has a limb-length difference. What should I do?

If you suspect your child has a limb-length difference, then you should consult a paediatric orthopaedic specialist. It’s important to remember that limb length differences in children can be managed effectively with proper medical attention and support.

At Childrens Orthopaedic, we’ll conduct a thorough examination, including a physical assessment, imaging scans (such as X-rays or MRIs) and, in some cases, further specialised tests that help us to accurately measure the extent of any difference.

We’ll then work with you and your child to create a fully personalised treatment plan – one that’s built entirely around your needs, and that you can feel completely happy with.

What are the treatment options?

There are several approaches we can take – it all depends on what’s right for you and your child.


Non-surgical approaches

  • Observation and monitoring

    In some cases, especially when there are only minor differences, we might suggest observation without any immediate intervention.

  • Shoe lifts/orthotics:
    Similarly, minor differences can also often be managed with shoe lifts or other orthotic devices that equalise leg length and improve gait.


Surgical options

  • Epiphysiodesis

    This procedure involves halting the growth of the longer limb by disrupting the growth plate. This then allows the shorter limb to catch up.

  • Limb lengthening

    In some cases, where the differences are significant, we may recommend limb-lengthening surgery as the best course of action for your child. This procedure involves gradually stretching the bone through a process called distraction osteogenesis.

    This procedure can also be used to correct the alignment of the bone and straighten the leg as well. The particular method will depend on the age of the child and the type of deformity. These include the insertion of lengthening nails, or devices such as the Ilizarov frame.

  • Limb shortening

    Occasionally, shortening the longer limb might be an option. However, this will depend on your child’s individual circumstances.


What happens after treatment?

Post-operative care is crucial to the success of treatment of limb-length differences. You’ll have access to physical therapy, regular follow-ups, and we’ll give you specific guidelines to follow to help get the very best outcome. You’ll need to keep a close eye on your child's progress and, if you have any concerns, let us know as soon as possible and we’ll be happy to help.

If you have any questions about anything you’ve read here, or if you’d like to book a consultation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. A member of our team will be happy to help in whatever way they can.

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