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Little No More

Limb-lengthening surgery stirs up big controversy

Orthopedic surgeons have perfected a technique that can add inches -- as many as 15 -- to an adult's height. On the surface, that might seem like great news for the hundreds of thousands of people who have genetic or medical conditions that cause dwarfism, but it's not that simple, reports this article from the Manila Bulletin.

First there's the cost, about $150,000. It's also not an easy procedure. Doctors use a chisel to break the leg or arm bone in half. Then, they reconnect the bones with a brace that resembles an Erector set. The brace pulls the bone apart again at a very slow rate, about a millimeter a day.

As the bones get farther apart, new bone starts to grow and fill in the empty spaces. The whole process, including physical therapy, takes about three years. Also, because the procedure is relatively new, no one knows what problems patients might encounter down the road.

More important, some wonder if this type of surgery is sending the wrong message. Many people don't feel their short stature is something that needs to be fixed. Rather, it's part of who they are.

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