Day 6

Dr. Amar Sarin can make you taller, but he'll have to break your legs

Amar Sarin is an orthopedic surgeon in Delhi who performs limb-lengthening procedures for a growing number of people who are seeking it for cosmetic purposes. It's a long, complicated procedure and the practice is largely unregulated.
A post-op patient who had leg stretching surgery done so she could be 5 cm taller. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel)
Listen7:30

For about $15,000, Dr. Amar Sarin will break your legs to make you taller.

Dr. Sarin is an orthopedic surgeon in Delhi, India and he routinely performs cosmetic height enhancement surgery, making people up to 18 or 20 centimetres taller than they used to be. 

"We have to be very cautious and safe," he tells Brent Bambury. "So we restrict ourselves."

The procedure involves breaking the bone in the patient's leg and separating the bone pieces. Almost immediately, the body starts regenerating bone to fill in the gap. As that happens, the bone fragments are pulled apart so the process can repeat. Over time, the bones — and the limbs — are lengthened. The whole process takes about four months, during which time the patient is hospitalized.

It's a life changing procedure.- Dr. Amar Sarin

"It is a very complex procedure," Dr. Sarin tells Bambury. "You are doing a unnatural thing. You are lengthening bone, you are lengthening muscles, you are lengthening arteries and you are lengthening nerves."

The procedure is performed in Canada, but only for people who have a physical condition which inhibits their ability to live their life, not because someone wants to be taller.

Dr. Sarin says he struggled early on about whether it was ethical to perform the procedure on someone who doesn't have a physical impairment. But after seeing the impact the surgery can have on someone's mental well-being, he says he doesn't think of it as a cosmetic procedure any more. 

"It's a life changing procedure," he says. "We take only those who candidates where their life is seriously hampered because of their low self-esteem. When you are changing the life of a person, I feel very happy."

Dr. Sarin says much of this has to do with societal pressure in some parts of India.

Cosmetic limb lengthening surgery is a booming industry in India. Here's how the procedure works. (Day 6)
 

"The ultimate thing for Indian parents in a smaller town or village is to get their girl married," he says. 

Dr. Sarin describes a 28-year-old woman he did the procedure on: "She is four-foot-six or four-foot-seven. And here there's a stigma. Whenever a guy comes to see her, he will outright reject her."

The procedure is un-regulated in India, leading to concerns about who is performing the procedure and on whom. But Dr. Sarin says he's confident the procedure is safe and that surgeons are being responsible.

In fact, he says he plans to go the procedure on his daughter. 

"If I can't do it on my daughter, I have no right to do it on anyone else."