Understanding Limb Lengthening

What is it?

Limb Lengthening is the process by which bones are lengthened and or realigned.

Bone is a unique tissue that has the ability to heal without forming scar and has the capacity to remodel according to the forces of day to day living

How are bones lengthened?

To lengthen a bone the surgeon first needs to apply a device (distractor) to the limb either externally or internally that is able to distract (pull apart) the bone. Once this is done the bone is cut or divided in a very controlled fashion keeping all the soft tissues (muscle) around the bone intact.

The bone then starts a healing process much like it would if it was broken. The early soft bone can then be distracted the very slowly and more bone will form. Once the desired length of bone has been formed the device then is held still whilst the bone heals and strengthens.


This education video explains the whole process in detail and should be watched by anyone considering a limb lengthening procedure.

  • In the video we use the shin as the example and the distractor in this case is called a rail or unilateral fixator.
  • The principles of lengthening any bone are the same but some of the local issues with respect to muscles and joints vary

If after viewing this video you have any questions please contact me at VicOrtho