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Some children are born with legs that are of unequal length or bowed tibias (shin bones). Functional leg length discrepancy can also result from congenital (present at birth) problems that alter alignment of the hips, such as coxa vara and developmental dislocation of the hip.
Other causes of leg length discrepancy may include:
• An injury, such as in a fracture that damages the cells responsible for growth of the bone, while the corresponding
bone on the other leg grows normally. Some fractures can also lead to overgrowth of bone during the healing process.
Overgrowth commonly occurs in young children with thighbone fractures.
• Diseases of the bone, such as osteomyelitis, can injure a region in a bone, called the growth plate, where growth in
length occurs, so that a discrepancy occurs gradually over time.
• Bone tumors and treatments designed to eradicate them can affect bone growth.
• Neuromuscular problems, such as cerebral palsy, which causes problems with alignment and posture can also lead
to a functional discrepancy.
• One leg is shorter than the other (although this is not always obvious)
• Problems with posture (i.e. shoulder may tilt toward shorter side) leading to compensatory or functional scoliosis
• Gait problems, such as limping, toe-walking or rotation of the leg
• A knee that's chronically hyperextended on the short side and flexed on the long side
• Pain in the back hip, knee, and/or ankle
The symptoms of a leg length discrepancy vary widely and are often related to the underlying problem causing the discrepancy and the alignment problems that result from it. Every child experiences symptoms differently. Always consult your child’s doctor for a diagnosis.
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”