In Asia, Surgeons Who Specialize in Making People Taller

While I was one of the tallest girls in my class in the third grade, I quickly became the shortest a few years later. At barely 5’1", I was the pit of many short jokes at school. I always thought that absolutely nothing could be done about a person’s height. Sure, there are operations out there that can make people thinner or younger looking, but I thought the act of elongating someone seemed too far-fetched to accomplish… until now.

Dr. Bai Helong is an orthopedic surgeon in Shanghai who specializes in making people taller. His tools? A saw and screwdriver. Before you dismiss this as something from a Stephen King novel, consider that Dr. Helong has already performed this operation on 3,000 patients from ages 14 to 55. While most of his patients are Asian, he has also treated Americans and Germans.

The operation goes something like this: Dr. Helong will first saw through the tibula and fibula below the knee and then allow the bone to regenerate for one week. After this time, he will install nickel and titanium braces into the patient’s legs and gradually stretch the braces over the course of four months to make the legs longer. According to an article by Channel News Asia, it takes four months just to achieve an average of six to eight centimeters, or two to three inches.

While this may sound like an extreme procedure to most people, Dr. Helong claims that he has met many short people who suffer psychological damage because of their height, even patients who threaten to kill themselves if they are not made taller. As noted in the article, Dr. Helong is working in a gray zone since China does not permit operations like these for merely cosmetic reasons.

What do you think? Are these surgeries justifiable and on the same level as other types of cosmetic surgeries like breast augmentation? Or is it just too extreme? [via Channel News Asia]

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