OCT 21, 2018 01:36 AM PDT

Inch by Painful Inch, Surgery Can Make People Taller

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

For people who desperately wish to be just a little bit taller, surgery is an option. The procedure, known as bone lengthening, is as gruesome as it is painful. Essentially, doctors purposely break the patient's bones in order to force new bone growth.

That bone can regrow if broken on purpose was an accidental discovery by the Russian doctor Gavriil Ilizarov. One of Ilizarov's patients turned a bone compression rod the wrong way. Instead of joining the fractures, the patient had even more separation in his bones. But Ilizarov noticed that this led to new formation of bone tissue between the gaps, which led him to believe that bone can be lengthened.

The procedure remains controversial due to the breaking of bones. Furthermore, despite the enormous pain and time it takes to lengthen bones, patients can hope to make small gains in height. Is the pain worth it? For some patients who suffer from bone deformities or missing bones, the answer may just be yes.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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