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Young Britons paying £50k to have legs broken to boost height

Eamonn Holmes discusses his recovery from back surgery

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An increasing number of young men are intentionally having their legs broken by surgeons to have their height artificially lengthened. After breaking the legs, an extending metal nail is placed within the bone so that it will grow around it as it extends. Consultant Surgeon in Trauma and Orthopaedics Dr Dimitrios Giotikas told Express.co.uk that he thinks the increasing numbers of young men visiting his private London clinic for the service is due to the perceived self-esteem benefits of increasing one’s height. He added that you can theoretically grow the bones much further than they do – but are limited from person to person by the need for the nerves to also stretch across the additional length.

Explaining the process, Dr Giotikas said: “It’s very simple. You’re breaking someone’s bone and you pull it apart and if you pull it apart at a certain speed, a new bone can grow in between.”

After the bone is broken, a nail or metal rod is placed within it and slowly extends itself. Some nails are mechanical, while others may be remotely controlled. As the bone heals around the additional length, the person’s overall height is increased – and can be done so up to between six and ten centimetres on average, said the surgeon.

The price of the surgery is typically around £25,000 – but, as patients naturally need both legs extended simultaneously, the procedure as a whole will run up a bill of around £50,000. While Dr Giotikas specified that age was not a factor in the healing of bones necessary to the procedure, he was seeing an increasing number of young men coming in for the surgery.

He said: “I don’t understand what’s happening. They are often in their late teens, or early twenties.”

The surgeon clarified that he does not perform surgery on anyone without seeing a full psychological report on them first.

Asked if the men reveal why they are doing it, Mr Giotikas said: “The general perception is the people who do this are young men who are not tall enough in their eyes. They will get better self-esteem, and they will get more confident.”

He added that he himself is not psychologically trained, however, and refers the evaluation to experts in that field. There is some evidence to suggest that short men can be treated differently by society.

A 2009 study of Australian men found that shorter men make less money than their taller peers to the tune of around $500 (£425) per year, per inch, while the average height of a male Fortune 500 CEO is 6ft, three inches taller than men’s average height of 5ft 9inches.

Height can also have an impact on romantic relationships, research suggests, with a 2013 study in the Netherlands finding that women were taller than their male partners just 7.5 percent of the time. The surgery to lengthen one’s legs is available on the NHS – but not for cosmetic purposes.

Leg-lengthening surgery is more traditionally used after someone has suffered trauma to their legs, or if they were born with legs of irregular length.

The surgery can prove painful.

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According to limbreconstructions.org, “insertion of the nails and surgical breaks of the bones is painful but not as much as when the leg is broken in an accident. You will require painkillers post surgery and during the lengthening certainly”. Patients can, however, return to any activity they were previously involved in after the surgery is completed.

There are risks involved. Dr Giotikas described so-called “runaway nails” that “go out of control” and continue expanding.

He added said: “If you’re not very tall, you lose a lot of muscle. Muscles are like rubber – if you’re stretched out a certain length, it works well and it will retract back but if you over stretch it, it won’t retract back.”

However, such events are rare. Limbreconstructions.org said it was a “very safe procedure with a very low risk of complications”.

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