SARASOTA, Fla. -- Imagine if one of your legs was longer than the other. It might not sound like a serious problem, but it could lead to severe hip or back pain if not treated.
Now, however, there's a new way to permanently lengthen limbs.
College student David Pfeiffer lived with a painful problem for 12 years. "I was walking around with one leg longer than the other.”
When David was seven, he broke his left leg. When it healed, it grew one inch longer than his right.
"It was causing like back problems, and you know, walking funny."
Patients like David used to need a painful external device for months. Pins pierced the skin and muscle to literally stretch the leg.
"No longer do my patients have to be condemned to wear this bulky medieval torture device outside their leg,” said Dr. John Herzenberg, an orthopedic surgeon.
With the precise limb lengthening system, a titanium rod with a magnetic motor is internally implanted in the patient's leg bone. An external remote control activates the magnets inside and gradually pulls the bone apart.
"And as these turn, it's causing the magnet inside to turn and it's slowly, slowly, slowly lengthening the leg," explained Dr. Herzenberg.
Patients use the device eight minutes a day to lengthen the bone by one-millimeter. The pin is removed after a year, and the patient is left with completely natural human bone.
"This is what we've been waiting for my whole professional career."
After 25 days of treatment, David’s leg grew one inch. Now he can stand tall without any pain holding him back.
The device is capable of lengthening up to three inches and can be used multiple times if needed.
If the patient's leg is too long, they can reverse the effects by turning the magnets in the opposite direction as long as the bone has not yet healed.