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Limb length discrepancy

Our paediatric consultants can diagnose and treat limb discrepancies with advanced surgical procedures

About

Limb discrepancy is a condition where one of a child's arms or legs is longer than the other. A child is either born with the condition, or develops it after illness or injury. Parents first notice the condition as the child starts to crawl and walk. Discrepancy in leg length is a particular issue, preventing the child from walking properly.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of limb length discrepancy icon plus

    Symptoms of limb length discrepancy vary, depending on the extent of the difference. Where the leg is more than four per cent shorter than the other healthy leg, the child may limp and tire easily when walking. General symptoms include: - one limb that is shorter than the other - a child may limp or walk on their toes (toe-walking) - an uneven posture - back pain, or pain in the hip, knee or ankle joint - if the leg is slightly longer on one side, the knee may be hyperextended on the short side; this puts pressure on the joint
  • Diagnosis icon plus

    Your consultant will discuss your symptoms with you and help to make a diagnosis. They will examine your child's legs and will observe how they sit, stand and move. They may put a wooden block under your child's shorter leg to highlight the difference and measure the discrepancy. They will also watch the way your child walks - younger children may compensate by walking on their toes or flexing the knee of their healthy leg. Your consultant may order further tests: - x-rays — these highlight the discrepancy in your child's bones in greater details - scanograms — this shows a sequence of three images and a ruler to measure the length of the leg bones
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    Your consultant may suggest surgical and non-surgical treatment options for your child. If the leg discrepancy is minor, a shoe-lift may help them walk and run. If a child has stopped growing, the healthy leg may be shortened through surgery. Here, a section is taken from the bone to even out the legs. The leg is then held together with pins. In severe discrepancies, the shorter leg may be lengthened using external fixators. This circular frame is connected to the bone with wires. The frame is then tightened to pull the bones apart (distract), so that new bone will grow in the spaces. It's possible to grow the bone by 1mm every day.
Consultant in theatres

Our consultants

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From complex surgery to straightforward procedures, we provide exceptional care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

Request an appointment

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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