Medicine

Distraction Osteogenesis Could Make You A Foot Taller

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If you're a guy who's shorter than average, you've probably daydreamed about what it would be like to grow taller. Well, your wish is science's command—there's a procedure for that.

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Height Comes At A Cost

Cosmetic surgery exists for a plethora of things, including nose jobs and breast implants, but where's the love for all the shorties? Well, an unorthodox procedure called distraction osteogenesis now exists. This procedure was originally developed to treat patients with uneven limb lengths or dwarfism, but now virtually anyone can gain a few inches of height—for a price. If you're vertically challenged and don't mind paying an arm and a leg (get it?) and undergoing a complex procedure with a painful recovery, distraction osteogenesis could be for you.

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How To Get Taller, One Broken Leg At A Time

So how does it work? First, they break your legs. Seriously. Called an osteotomy, it requires doctors to literally break your bones, usually your tibiae. Then, you'll go through the "latency phase," where you just hang out with broken legs for a few days as your body begins to heal. But before your bones fully mend themselves, you enter the "distraction phase." No, no one is distracting you from your broken legs with cute animal photos—they're affixing your bones with a separating device, often a lizarov apparatus, which surrounds the leg to stabilize the broken bone while slowly pulling it apart. The device will move each side of your tibia by approximately one millimeter each day. A callus is formed in the empty space, which is then replaced by collagen. Then, special cells called osteoblasts move in and create actual bone. Think you're done? Not even close.

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Once your legs gain a few inches, you enter the final phase: consolidation. During this stage, the bone material mineralizes (hardens) for the duration of about a month per centimeter in length. Just five inches would take you more than a year. Once that's done, hooray—you're taller! Now you just have to go through several months of physical therapy to learn how to walk again. Yeesh. On top of this painful process, distraction osteogenesis costs some serious money. The average cost of getting this procedure done on both legs comes in at a whopping $85,000. If you're still considering leg lengthening, visit www.makemetaller.org, a community created by a man who successfully came through this surgery himself. For what it's worth, Curiosity loves you no matter your height!

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