Dr Michael Assayag is in the business of making people taller, one of only a handful of doctors in the world who can do so.
In the months since the loosening of pandemic restrictions, he has witnessed an exponential increase in his caseload as people – many of whom might have once thought they were stuck being a certain height forever – are realising that maybe they aren’t.
Assayag increased by five inches (12.7cm) the height of his shortest ever male patient, who was five feet one inches (155cm) tall, and his shortest ever female patient saw her height increase from four feet six inches to five feet.
The orthopaedic surgeon, who runs the International Centre for Limb Lengthening in Baltimore in the US state of Maryland, says that while the surgery was originally intended for those with complex congenital conditions, it’s now being used overwhelmingly for cosmetic reasons in his practice.
Michael Assayag with a patient before and after limb-lengthening surgery. He is one of a few doctors in the world who can make people taller.
“The landscape is mostly changing,” said Assayag, who regularly treats patients from China. “Eighty per cent of my patients are men, and they are usually on average five feet four inches and want to be at least a few inches taller.
“And it’s more than just cosmetic; the main reason people want it is because they are preoccupied with their height and that impacts their psychological state. With even an extra two inches of height, that preoccupation completely shifts. They stop being obsessed with their height, and they start living.”
Assayag saw the long-term life-changing implications of the surgery years ago, while still a resident doing paediatric orthopaedic work. He met a surgeon who performed limb lengthening, mostly for extreme medical situations.
“She talked about it with such confidence, and I thought I want to be just like her,” he said. “It changed my life, and I cancelled my trauma fellowship to jump into this.”
The limb-lengthening procedure involves surgically inserting a device inside the bone; the device has a small magnetic motor, which is activated using a remote controller. After the surgery, the remote controller is used to very slowly and gradually lengthen the bone – at the rate of one millimetre a day.
The average height increase is three to four inches; Assayag said some people ask for up to eight inches, at which point they would need more than one surgery. The procedure costs around US$70,000.
Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Michael Assayag runs the International Centre for Limb Lengthening in Baltimore in the US state of Maryland.
For many, that is a small price to pay to achieve a certain level of self-confidence. There are studies to indicate that height is associated with living a more charmed life. In a 2019 study from the University of Toronto in Canada and the University of Notre Dame in the US state of Indiana, economists concluded that taller people earned more and were more popular on online dating sites.
According to the research, the shorter men are, the less they earn. When women were studied, the research indicated that every inch of female height resulted in about one per cent more in earnings.
Assayag said that people have perceptions about their own stature, and even though they might be of average height, every concern about being short needs to be addressed.
“If someone who is five feet 10 inches is too short, I listen to their reasons as to why they think that and to see if their reasons are reasonable,” he said. “I want to make sure each patient has realistic expectations. If the expectation is that they are going to become a basketball player, then we have to have an important conversation.”Internet Explorer Channel Network