Complications Associated With Epiphysiodesis for Management of Leg Length Discrepancy

Marina R. Makarov, Samuel H. Dunn, Dustin E. Singer, Karl E. Rathjen, Brandon A. Ramo, Chukwudi K. Chukwunyerenwa, John G. Birch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND:: Epiphysiodesis is well-established surgical treatment for the management of leg length discrepancy (LLD) in children; however, a variety of complications may occur. This study evaluates the nature, rate, and potential risk factors of complications associated with epiphysiodesis in a large patient population treated in 1 institution. METHODS:: We evaluated the medical and radiographic records of 863 children who had lower extremity epiphysiodesis to manage LLD between 1980 and 2011. RESULTS:: Sixty patients (7.0%) incurred complications of some type. Twenty-three patients (2.7%) had perioperative complications unrelated to physeal growth; all resolved without surgical treatment. These included 2 patients with transient intraoperative complications (laryngospasm and allergic rash), 7 with transient neurological symptoms (5 cutaneous nerve dysesthesia or numbness and 2 peroneal nerve neuropathies), and 14 with postoperative knee stiffness which resolved with therapy. Thirty-seven patients (4.3%) developed physeal growth-related complications, including 6 patients who developed overcorrection of leg length inequality (3 had contralateral epiphysiodesis to prevent overcorrection, while 3 declined), and 31 patients who developed angular deformity and/or continued growth of the physis. Of these 31 patients, 15 had reexploration of the epiphysiodesis site, 6 underwent corrective osteotomy, while in 10, no treatment was undertaken. Compared with patients who did not develop angular deformity, these 31 patients had significantly greater LLD (5.6 vs. 3.7 cm, respectively, P<0.01), were younger (10.7 vs. 11.7 in girls; 12.4 vs. 13.5 in boys; P<0.01), and were more likely to have a congenital etiology for their LLD (P<0.01). CONCLUSIONS:: Epiphysiodesis is a safe and effective procedure for the correction of leg length inequality. The rate of complications in this study was 7.0%, the most prevalent being the development of angular deformity. Congenital etiology, younger age, and larger limb length inequalities were risk factors for the development of angular deformity. Both surgeons and families should be aware of nature and rate of complications associated with epiphysiodesis. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE:: Level IV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Pediatric Orthopaedics
StateAccepted/In press - Aug 19 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Medicine(all)
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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