Forearm lengthening by distraction osteogenesis in children

A report of 22 cases

R. A. Hill, T. Ibrahim, H. A. Mann, A. Siapkara


We present our experience of forearm lengthening in children with various conditions performed by a single surgeon between 1995 and 2009. A total of 19 children with a mean age of 9.8 years (2.1 to 15.9) at the time of surgery had 22 forearm lengthenings using either an Ilizarov/spatial and Ilizarov circular frame or a monolateral external fixator. The patients were divided into two groups: group A, in whom the purpose of treatment was to restore the relationship between the radius and the ulna, and group B, in whom the objective was to gain forearm length. The mean follow-up after removal of the frame was 26 months (13 to 53).

There were ten patients (11 forearms) in group A with a mean radioulnar discrepancy of 2.4 cm (1.5 to 3.3) and nine patients (11 forearms) in group B. In group A, the mean lengthening achieved was 2.7 cm (1.0 to 5.5), with a lengthening index of 11.1 weeks/cm. Equalisation or overcorrection of the discrepancy was achieved in seven of 11 forearms, but lengthening was only partially successful at preventing subluxation or dislocation of the radial head. In group B, the mean lengthening achieved was 3.8 cm (1.9 to 6.8), with a lengthening index of 7.25 weeks/cm. Common complications in both groups were pin-site infection and poor regenerate formation.

Forearm lengthening by distraction osteogenesis is a worthwhile procedure in children that can improve cosmesis and function, particularly in patients with shortening of both radius and ulna.


  • No benefits in any form have been received or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this article.

  • Received May 9, 2011.
  • Accepted July 20, 2011.
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