Child Orthopedics

Frequently Asked Questions

My 15-year old daughter broke her lower leg in a bad fall. She had surgery to put a long rod in the bone. The rod has been taken out now but it seems like that leg is longer. Is that possible? It seems like it would be shorter after a fracture, not longer.

Leg length differences can occur after a fracture anywhere in the limb. Many times fractures heal without any noticeable difference in the length of the bone. Shortening or lengthening of the leg are both possible problems after fracture healing. The difference can occur for a number of different reasons.

Sometimes the fracture is close enough to the growth plate to either stimulate or reduce bone growth. In other cases, the bone can be broken in such a way that it is distracted or pulled apart. It may not be possible to bring the bone fragments close enough together to prevent the leg from healing in a lengthened position.

According to a recent study of tibial fractures in children, there are times when a discrepancy occurs in the bone that has nothing to do with the fracture.

If the difference is small, an insert in the shoe may be all that's needed. If X-rays and exam show the difference is significant, surgery may be needed. The surgeon can staple the growth plate on the longer side until the other leg catches up. When the legs are even again, the staple can be removed and the bone resumes growth.

J. Eric Gordon, M.D., et al. Complications After Titanium Elastic Nailing of Pediatric Tibial Fractures. In Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics. June 2007. Vol. 27. No. 4. Pp. 442-446.

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