Limb length discrepancy (LLD) is an orthopedic condition where one limb or extremity is longer or shorter than the other. The discrepancy can range from a slight difference in length to a more extreme, visible difference. This condition can be present at birth or due to an accident or medical condition later in life. LLD can affect people of all ages and can lead to painful and debilitating issues such as gait abnormalities, lower back pain, hip pain, knee pain, and foot pain. If the discrepancy is more significant than two centimeters (cm), it may impact the person’s ability to ambulate correctly.
People with limb length discrepancies often develop abnormal walking patterns in order to compensate for the uneven limb lengths, which can lead to further complications over time. A variety of factors, including genetics, trauma, infection, or an underlying skeletal dysplasia, may cause a limb length discrepancy. In some cases, congenital hip dysplasia (CHD) can also contribute to limb length differences.
The best way to diagnose LLD is through X-rays and radiographs, which will help determine the type and magnitude of difference between limbs. Treatment options depend on various factors, such as the cause and severity of LLD; they range from bracing and physical therapy to corrective surgery. Orthotics like custom-made shoe lifts are used in milder cases. In contrast, very severe cases may require surgical intervention such as epiphysiodesis, which involves cutting a bone near its growth plate in order to stop it from growing any longer and lengthening the shorter side, thus evening out the disparity between both limbs.