DePuy Synthes

What Is a Limb Deformity?

DePuy Synthes

What Is a Limb Deformity?

Limb deformities are musculoskeletal abnormalities that can be congenital (something you are born with), developmental, or acquired as the result of fracture, infection, arthritis or tumor. The symptoms of limb deformity can range from a mild difference in the appearance of a limb, to major loss of function of an extremity. Treatment depends on the anatomic location of the deformity, functional deficit, or presence of cosmetic concern. 


Some of the conditions that can cause limb deformities include:

Limb Length Discrepancies
Legs that vary in length. The condition can be congenital, or caused by a traumatic injury to the bone’s growth plate, resulting in growth arrest in the affected limb.

Traumatic Injury
Typical cause is high energy trauma such as a car or motorcycle accident, where bones do not heal completely (nonunion) or heal in an incorrect anatomic position (malunion).

Bow Legs
Condition where an outward curve of one or both legs results in a noticeable space between the legs at the knees. Typical causes include disorders such as Blount’s disease, rickets, renal failure, infection, developmental abnormalities, and achondroplasia – a form of dwarfism.

Knock Knees
May be caused by a number of different conditions including metabolic diseases, renal failure, trauma and infection. It may also be idiopathic, which means having no known cause.

Genetic disorder characterized by tumors, or neurofibromas, that grow in the nervous system and under the skin. Individuals with this condition frequently develop orthopedic problems and are susceptible to tibial dysplasia, which is a failure of the tibia to develop appropriately.

Infections of the Bones and Tumors
These conditions may require surgery to remove affected bone, resulting in an acquired bone deformity.

Osteogenesis Imperfecta
Condition causing extremely fragile bones. As a result of frequent breaks, surgery may be needed to correct any deformities which interfere with a person's ability to move or walk.

How Can a Limb Deformity Affect Me?

Bone deformities most often occur in the tibia (lower leg bone), femur (thigh bone), and ankle. Limb deformities may affect patients by causing pain, restricting mobility, and cosmetic issues. Because deformities can also affect joint alignment, a deformity left untreated may result in musculoskeletal problems such as arthritis or back pain, and potentially prevent patients from participating in activities they enjoy.



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The performance of limb deformity surgery depends on age, weight, activity level and other factors. There are potential risks and recovery takes time. People with conditions limiting rehabilitation should not have this surgery. Only an orthopaedic surgeon can tell if limb deformity surgery is right for you.

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