Leg shorter than the other: causes and treatment

Fibular hemimelia is a rare birth defect in which part of the fibula or all bone is absent, making the leg shorter than normal. In addition, in almost all cases, knee and foot deformities also appear, which can prevent the child from walking.

Although it is even more rare, fibular hemimelia can be bilateral and affect both legs, in which case the child may not even be able to start walking.

The treatment for this defect is usually done with surgery, to correct the deformities and try to stretch the affected leg, improving the child's quality of life.

How to identify fibular hemimelia

Fibular hemimelia is usually easy to identify, especially since the affected leg is much smaller than the other. This is because in the affected leg, all the bones, including the tibia and femur, grow very slowly, even if the problem is in the fibula.

In addition, deformities in the feet and ankles may also appear, as there may be missing bones in the joint, which makes the ankle more unstable and causes the foot to be at a different angle than normal, facing inwards, for example .

However, to confirm the diagnosis it is always important to go to the pediatrician, as in some cases the child may not show such clear signs of the problem, but may have difficulty walking or maintaining balance when standing.

How the treatment is done

In many cases of fibular hemimelia, the first recommended treatment is reconstructive surgery to correct the deformities and try to reduce the size difference between the legs.

However, when the difference is very large and it is not possible to completely correct the size of the affected leg, special shoes with high heels or orthopedic insoles are also advised, which help to reduce the difference that is missing. This type of treatment can also be the first treatment option when hemimelia is mild, for example.

In addition, physiotherapy sessions are almost always used to ensure mobility and strengthening of the leg joints, improving strength and balance during gait.