Prior to a lengthening surgery, you and your child’s surgeon will determine a goal length for the leg. This goal may change depending on how the lengthening process is going. On average, the external fixator stays on one month for every centimeter of lengthening. So, if the goal is to lengthen your child’s limb five centimeters (two inches), the external fixator stays on for five months.
During the lengthening process, your child will likely need weekly doctor visits to check X-rays and help ensure that the lengthening is going well. It is important that your child goes to physical therapy as directed. A limb lengthening will only be successful if your child is able to continue to move his or her hip, knee, and ankle during the lengthening process. To avoid serious complications, your doctor will stop the lengthening if your child’s knee, hip, or ankle are becoming too stiff or if the joints are appearing to come out of place.
Your surgeon will give you very specific instructions on how to use your external fixator device. It’s very important to follow these instructions carefully. Adjusting the external fixator too fast or two slow can be extremely dangerous and lead to serious complications.