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Section: Asian Calf, Leg, and Foot Surgery

Cosmetic Leg Lengthening

In some parts of Asia, short stature constitutes a significant handicap in the business world and can interfere with obtaining many jobs ranging from government service positions to airline flight attendants. In China, there's a minimum height for almost any position, including salesperson, journalism student, media studies, policeman, or even a TV hostess.

And then there's the impact of short height on love and marriage.

While an operation known as cosmetic leg lengthening has been devised for all such scenarios, it is mentioned here only to be condemned for purely elective use unrelated to trauma, disease, or birth defects.

Basically, the operation entails breaking the normal leg bones, piercing them with steel pins and wires, and then screwing the pins into a metal frame.

The fractured legs are lengthened by turning the screws three times a day to pull the bones apart, not unlike being tortured by stretching on a rack. Pain is substantial and patients must be kept heavily sedation at the onset of treatment. The process takes up to 16 months while full healing takes many years.

Results can range from acceptable to disastrous with possible complications affecting not just the bones, but muscles, nerves, and skin.

The surgery, performed almost exclusively in China but also Russia, is now regulated by the government. Technically, the operation became illegal in China in 2006 for purely cosmetic reasons, but the authorities routinely ignore this restriction if a patient simply mentions "height-related stress" as the indication for having surgery.

The cost is Shanghai is plus or minus US $15,000 for the operation itself but much more for the long recuperation period and intense physical therapy. Not surprisingly, the procedure is starting to attract medical travelers from abroad where similar surgeries done to correct actual medical problems may cost up to nine times as much.

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Note: Information, observations, and opinions are offered for general reference only and should not be taken as medical advice or diagnosis.

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