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Leg Length Discrepancy

pediatric orthopaedic surgeon

Pediatric Orthopaedic Consultation for Concerning Leg Growth

What is a Leg Length Discrepancy?

Typically occurring in childhood, a leg length discrepancy is an orthopedic condition in which one leg grows a different length than the other.  The severity and causes of this condition vary greatly and can often be connected to other orthopedic conditions. One important way of classifying leg length discrepancy is true leg length discrepancy and functional leg length discrepancy. In cases of functional leg length discrepancy, the legs are actually even in length but some other condition is causing the appearance of unevenness. With true leg length discrepancy the legs are actually uneven in length, and not due to a false appearance with the pelvis. It is important to be aware of true leg length discrepancy if you believe your child may have it, as if it is left untreated the child can develop several serious problems with their leg or lower back. This is due to the child’s unconscious compensating for either their longer or lower leg causing this discrepancy. This compensation often can cause an awkward gait when walking that can cause adverse social treatment when growing up. If the stress gets bad enough, long term conditions such as chronic lower back pain, calf surgery, arthritic, and others. Fortunately, leg length discrepancy is highly treatable, and in most cases treatment leads to children having no functional or visual deficiencies. 

Diagnosing Leg Length Discrepancy

Leg length discrepancy exists on a large spectrum. Most people in the world have the condition to a very small degree. This means there is a wide range in severtiy and nature when it comes to having leg length discrepancy. This means diagnosis is especially important for developing the right approach and treatment plan for every child’s case. Diagnosis usually occurs in infancy or childhood. Typically, during an examination in infancy a pediatrician will notice the conditions leading to leg length discrepancy, or the parents will notice a visual abnormality with their child over time. Depending on the diagnosis of conditions, the pediatrician will require an ultrasound of the kidney to ensure that a Wilms tumor does not exist within the child. In cases of diagnoses with older children, leg length discrepancy is usually discovered through the development of a limp. This limp usually occurs over time and can become quite pronounced if not diagnosed and treated. 

Pediatric Orthopaedic Treatment

The orthopaedic treatment for leg length discrepancy varies greatly depending on the patient. In cases that are milder in nature having no operation is deemed the best available course. In these cases, it is not uncommon for treatments to be delayed because the difference in length can even out or lessen over time until it becomes negligible. For cases that remain pronounced but mild, a heel insert will often correct any issues when walking. For many children, a surgical operation is deemed the best available course for treatment, and will depend on the causes of the condition in terms of what type it will be. The most difficult of these is the leg lengthening surgery, but improvements have been occurring recently that have improved the outlook on these surgeries.

Pediatric Orthopaedic Outlook

Overall, a child having a leg length deficiency is not as scary as it may initially sound. While it may not always be easy, the long-term outlook is good in most cases, and your child will be a happy, healthy, and active one with treatment and care.  To learn more about diagnosing leg length discrepancy, schedule a visit today.

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