WTF?! How much would you pay to be three inches taller? $75,000? For some, this is a fair price to raise their status. Interestingly, tech industry professionals make up a significant proportion of patients seeking this costly and agonizing operation. Is it really worth it? I guess it depends on your point of view, but after looking into the details, I’m not convinced.
Recently, there has been a surge in an unusual form of cosmetic surgery that increases a patient’s height by several inches. Dr. Kevin Debiparshad, one of the few doctors performs procedure in the US, claims to have up to 50 new patients a month who want to get a little taller. Oddly enough, many of them work in the field of high technology.
“I joke that I could start a technology company. I now have about 20 software engineers who are here in Vegas doing this procedure,” Debiparshad told GQ. “Yesterday there was a girl from PayPal. I have patients from Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft. I’ve had several patients from Microsoft.”
The reason so many techies seek surgery may be because they have a lot of money but lack self-esteem.
Prices range from $70,000 to $100,000 for the initial procedure, which involves cutting off both femurs (femurs) and inserting a large titanium nail between the broken bones. The rods are gradually lengthened by one millimeter per day for three months. The surgeon then removes the screws, a procedure that costs an additional $14,000 to $20,000. The result is an increase of up to three inches in height.
People should consider not only the high price. Some patients opt for an extra three inches when performing the procedure on the tibia. However, at what point does a person begin to look bizarrely deranged if he only lengthens his legs? Even a few inches later, the bodies look oddly disproportionate.
Another disadvantage is that the operation actually cripples patients for up to three months. During this time, the muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels slowly stretch, causing severe pain. Strong painkillers deal with this problem, but some patients worry about addiction. So it’s not something anyone would want to enter lightly.
In fact, leg lengthening has not always been considered cosmetic surgery. A Soviet orthopedic surgeon named Gavriil Ilizarov developed this procedure in the 1950s to treat abnormalities such as uneven leg lengths and compound fractures. It was generally considered medically necessary.
It was also much more invasive. Basically, doctors would break a leg, and then instead of fixing it, they attached a medieval scaffolding called the Ilizarov apparatus, or framework, to the leg. The pins on the brace were driven in and attached to the bone that held the leg level, but with enough rupture for the new bone to grow into the gap. Patients were usually bedridden for several months, but in the end they had straight legs.
Some surgeons still practice the Ilizarov operation. However, the alternative form used by Dr. Debiparshad and others is relatively new and has only been developed in the last five years. It has advantages over using the Ilizarov apparatus, the most obvious of which is the removal of more wounds than necessary. Since all the mechanics are inside the leg and are controlled by a magnet, there is less chance of infection from gaping wounds caused by the pins of the Ilizarov apparatus.
Doctors continue to work on the process to make it faster and easier for the patient. Between 2019 and 2021 they used a stainless steel nail instead of titanium. The steel was stiffer and allowed patients to walk on it. However, they were withdrawn when the possibility of corrosion was discovered. Dr. Debiparshad says the new nail is awaiting FDA approval and should be available in 2023.
Head credit: Ellipse2016