The Long and (Financial) Short of Fixing Leg Length Differences

More common treatment for children may mean lower earnings throughout adulthood, researchers report

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FRIDAY, Oct. 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- The type of surgery used to correct significant leg length differences in children can affect the patient's income as an adult, a new study suggests.

Typically, a child whose legs are different lengths has the longer leg shortened, which results in a shorter height as an adult. Lengthening the shorter leg is less common because it involves numerous surgeries and higher risk of complications, the researchers explained.

But they also found that each extra inch of adult height was associated with an average increase of $1,193 in annual income, using 2010 inflation-adjusted figures.

For men, each extra inch of height from 64 inches to 70 inches meant $1,660 more income per year, and each extra inch in height from 70 inches to 76 inches meant $788 more income per year. For women, each extra inch of height from 59 inches to 70 inches meant $1,186 more income per year, the researchers suggested.

This means the average 70-inch-tall man makes $3,321 more per year than the average 68-inch-tall man. Over 50 years of working, the taller man would make an additional $166,047, according to the researchers.

The study, which followed more than 12,600 Americans from 1979 until 2010, is to be presented Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in Washington, D.C. Research presented at medical meetings is typically considered preliminary, because it has not undergone the intense scrutiny of published studies.

Despite the known disadvantages of leg-lengthening surgery, these findings suggest it "may have some overlooked benefits," study author Eric Peng, a medical student at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, said in an AAP news release.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about leg lengthening and shortening.

SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics, news release, Oct. 23, 2015


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