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Height-increasing Surgery Could Be Dangerous: Experts
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Orthopedic specialists have warned image-conscious people to be "seriously cautious" about undergoing the Ilizarov procedure, a risky surgery that makes people taller but "could also lead to partial paralysis".

The warning came after a 25-year-old woman from Guangzhou, nicknamed Xiaomei, was left crippled in her lower right leg after undergoing the procedure at the Guangzhou Yuandong Cosmetics Hospital.

Doctor Xu Chao examines 14-year-old Fu Yunlong after the boy underwent surgery on his legs at the Department of Orthopedics of Zhejiang Jiangong Hospital in Hangzhou.

In the Ilizarov procedure, which entered mainstream medicine in the late 1980s, the bones of a patient's lower legs are broken and separated, then allowed to grow back to span the gap.

However, Xiaomei was quoted by CCTV (China Central Television) as saying that she had been seriously crippled after undergoing surgery in March 2005, because the gap had failed to close.

The woman said she paid more than 50,000 yuan (US$6,410) for the surgery to have her height increased by 8cm to 160cm, but she was later found to have a grade eight disability by judicial authentication.

Following Xiaomei's case, the hospital has been ordered to stop "providing this illegal surgical procedure", sources with the Guangzhou municipal health authority said.

China Daily yesterday sought to get a comment from the hospital's president, Wang Liangming, but his secretary said he was, "busy performing a surgery".

However, its vice-president, Wang Kuiran, had earlier told CCTV that the hospital had carried out more than 100 such operations since 2004, even though the procedure had yet to be approved by the health authority.

"Originally, we didn't know that such a cosmetic surgery needed to be approved," Wang said.

The Guangzhou-based hospital was asked to stop performing the surgery at the end of 2005.

The procedure had become very popular at the hospital after a woman named Guan Ying, who was dubbed "Guangzhou's first man-made beauty", underwent a successful surgery there. However, several subsequent cases were unsuccessful, Liao Xinbo, deputy director of the Guangdong provincial health authority, said.

"Strictly speaking, it should be used only as a medical procedure. For cosmetic procedures, it is still highly risky," Chen Ke, an orthopedic surgeon with the Guangzhou Air-Force Hospital, said.

"We are asking people not to rush into such operations and instead rely on medicines to increase height," Chen told China Daily yesterday.

According to Qiu Guixing, an orthopedic specialist with the Chinese Medical Association, cosmetics clinics began introducing the procedure in 2000 as a "reliable operation".

However, the Ministry of Health issued a regulation to ban the procedure last October, after an increasing number of patients were reported to have experienced pain, a lack of strength in their legs and even deformities.

(China Daily April 3, 2007)

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