shortening of the leg (apparent)

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Apparent shortening occurs when one leg appears to be shorter than the other but there is no loss of bone length and the apparent discrepancy is due to a defect in the pelvis or the spine. Spinal causes, for example scoliosis, are more common than true pelvic deformity.

Apparent leg length is measured from any convenient midline structure - such as the pubic symphysis or xiphisternum - to the medial malleolus.

For example:

  • fixed adduction deformity of the hip: the limbs are usually crossed and when made parallel, cause the pelvis to tip upwards - the limb on the affected side appears to be shorter

  • fixed abduction deformity: when the limbs are made parallel, that on the affected side now seems longer

Last reviewed 01/2018