Limb Lengthening and Regeneration Clinic in Minnesota Overview

Physicians from a wide range of specialties work together at the Limb Lengthening and Regeneration Clinic at Mayo Clinic's campus in Rochester, Minnesota. Having expertise from a large pool of specialists helps ensure that you receive exactly the right treatment for you.

Bone deformities in your arms or legs can occur for a variety of reasons, including congenital disorders, developmental problems, metabolic disorders and traumatic injuries.

Conditions treated at the Limb Lengthening and Regeneration Clinic include:

  • Skeletal dysplasia. These types of birth defects cause disturbances in bone growth, which often result in short stature and crooked limbs. Some types of skeletal dysplasia are responsible for dwarfism.
  • Osteogenesis imperfecta. This genetic disorder makes bones brittle and more susceptible to fractures. The condition may be mild or severe, and can begin in infancy.
  • Limb length discrepancy. Many problems can cause one leg or arm to be longer than the other. For example, a growth plate fracture can result in the fractured bone ending up more crooked or shorter than its opposite limb.

Bilateral leg lengthening for people who would simply like to be taller is also available through the Limb Lengthening and Regeneration Clinic. However, this type of elective procedure is typically not covered by health insurance.

Lengthening and straightening bone

In many cases, surgeons with the Limb Lengthening and Regeneration Clinic can lengthen or straighten the bone to improve function and allow normal alignment of the body.

This is accomplished by a process called distraction osteogenesis. This process takes advantage of the method by which a broken bone heals. The bone is carefully cut at the location that needs to be lengthened or straightened, and as the healing begins, the ends of the cut bone are very gradually moved apart until the desired position or length is achieved. New bone fills in the gap, creating a solid and stable bone.

External or internal devices

The metal hardware used to gradually move the bone pieces apart can be either external or internal devices. In some cases, both types of devices are used.

The external device, called an external fixator, is a series of metal rings that encircle the exterior of the limb. The rings are connected by metal struts. Sturdy metal pins attach the rings to the bone. The patient manually adjusts the struts to lengthen by about a millimeter each day.

An internal device to lengthen bones, known as an intramedullary rod, is an expandable, magnetically controlled rod that is inserted through the hollow length of the bone pieces. No hardware can be seen above the skin. The patient uses an electronic controller that directs the rod to lengthen about a millimeter every day.

Some deformities can be corrected all at once during the surgical procedure, and stabilized with plates or rods. This treatment may be available depending on how much deformity is present and where it is located.

Types of specialists involved

Members of the Limb Lengthening and Regenerative Clinic include specialists in:

Within Orthopedic Surgery, subspecialists involved in this clinic include surgeons trained in orthopedic trauma, pediatric orthopedics, orthopedic oncology, hand and upper extremity surgery, foot and ankle surgery, and adult reconstruction.