Leg-lengthening surgeon explains what the procedure is like and who his average patient is
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Featured Image Credit: Dr. Shahab Mahboubian/Instagram
A leg-lengthening surgeon has explained what the procedure is like and who his average patient is.
Shahab Mahboubian, the orthopedic surgeon behind the private centre Height Lengthening in California, has been practising for 13 years.
And over the years he's developed a deep knowledge of the procedure and how it's shifted in recent times.
For those not in the know, leg or limb-lengthening surgery is a costly procedure unless it's done on insurance, and its results can vary from person to person.
Mahboubian told Insider that some of his patients have only gained four centimeters in height, while others have gained a whopping six inches – although the higher end is only possible with two surgeries.
At the start of his career, he mostly saw to individuals with leg-length discrepancies or deformities.
"Surgery helps patients with these deformities or injuries walk better and participate more fully in activities like sports," he said.
However, this has changed a lot in recent years as height has become an increasingly prevalent insecurity, especially amongst men in the social media era.
Mahboubian continued: "I get about 20 emails a day asking about limb-lengthening procedures and up to 40 when one of our posts goes viral on TikTok or Instagram.
"The general population believes that whatever height you grow to is your final height, but that's not the case – a lengthening procedure provides an opportunity to become taller."
That being said, it doesn't come cheap.
"The surgery is quite expensive - it can cost anywhere from $75,000 to $90,000, depending on exactly what you want to do - and it's not covered by insurance if it's cosmetic," he explained.
And then there's the recovery to think about.
Elaborating on the procedure itself, the surgeon explained that after using guide wires and x-rays, the team surgically cut the bone and place a 10 to 13 inch rod known as a Precice nail into the middle of the bone, which is secured with screws.
Following the surgery, a magnetic machine is used to start the lengthening process by 'communicating' with the nail and turning tiny gears into it to increase the space between the segments of the bone.
Sound painful? Well, according to Mahboubian, it's not too bad as it does this very slowly – one millimeter at a time.
"When we lengthen really slowly over time, the patient's body creates new bone and it fills in the gaps," he said.
"All my patients leave one millimeter taller because we test the nail during surgery to make sure it's functioning properly.
"A patient will typically spend two to three days in the hospital to recover, then lengthen their legs at home by about one millimeter a day.
"It's actually fairly painless because it's such a small amount at a time."
The recovery is a bit better for people who work in jobs where they sit at a desk, which can be done as soon as two weeks after.
But for labour-intensive positions or competitive sports, it could take up to six to eight months to get back into the swing of things, which is why so many of Mahboubian's patients decided to use the Covid lockdown to get the surgery.
Speaking about the average patient, the surgeon explained: "I would say 80 percent to 85 percent of my cosmetic limb-lengthening patients are men and 15 percent to 20 percent are women.
"A lot of our patients are entrepreneurs, in the military, or work in tech.
"I've performed height-lengthening surgery on individuals from 16 to 65 years old. I've had twins, siblings and even a father and son who've undergone the procedure."
He's also had a few trans men as patients, saying: "As they transition from female to male, some patients want to have more masculine features, including being taller."
Even if you're ready for the recovery and you've got a spare $90k lying around, not everyone is eligible for the procedure.
Mahboubian said: "I turn away some people, either because they don't have enough muscle flexibility or they have unrealistic goals."
But for the most part, people who are healthy and don't have bone disease are a good fit, and with one procedure it's possible to increase height by up to three inches.
One of the most important aspects of Height Lengthening is the aftercare too, something Mahboubian takes pride in.
He explained: "After I do these surgeries, I want my patients to be happy and encourage others to trust me and get good results."