Humeral lengthening by distraction osteogenesis : A safe procedure ?

Published online: Dec 27 2013


From the University Hospitals of KUL, Leuven, Belgium


This study was conducted to assess the safety of humeral lengthening using an Ilizarov frame. We retrospectively reviewed 26 humeral segments in 17 patients that were lengthened at our department between 1993 and 2011. There were varying aetiologies including achondroplasia, epiphyseal dysplasia, Ollier disease, trauma or infection of the proximal humeral growth-plate, unicameral bone cyst and brachial plexus injury. Mean age at start of surgery was 17.05 years (range : 5-40). The mean lengthening achieved was 8.85 (3-13) cm. Mean lengthening percentage was 35.3% (range : 10- 48). Average healing index was 30.56 days/cm (range : 17.46-42.32). There was a significant difference in healing index between achondroplasia patients (28.79 days/cm) compared to others (33.41 days/cm). Minor problems included pin tract infection (14 segments). More important obstacles were temporary elbow flexion contracture (7 segments), premature consolidation (6 segments), radial nerve dysaesthesia (6 segments) and loosening of a Schanz screw (1 segment). Complications included one fracture and one progressive bowing after frame removal. One planned lengthening was not completely achieved. Despite a lot of obstacles, humeral lengthening using an Ilizarov frame provided a reliable method to treat the functional or cosmetic problems of upper limb shortening.