What Is a Limb Difference? "Limb" is another name for the arms or legs. Limb differences are when an arm or leg is not shaped in the usual way. For example, a child's legs may be curved or one might be shorter than the other. Or, a bone in the arm may be short or missing. A limb difference that a child is born with is called congenital. A limb difference that happens after birth is called acquired. What Are the Signs & Symptoms of a Limb Difference? Signs of a limb difference depend on which limb is affected and how severe the difference is. Some limb differences are so mild that you can't notice them. Others are quite noticeable and affect the way a child moves or walks. There are many types of limb differences. For example, fibular hemimelia is when a baby is born with short and sometimes missing bones in the leg and foot. Limb length discrepancy is when one arm or leg is longer than the other. Sometimes, the knees bow out (bowlegs) or bend inward (knock knees). A limb difference also can happen after an injury. How Is a Limb Difference Diagnosed? To diagnose a limb difference, orthopedic specialists (doctors and other providers who treat bone and muscle problems) talk to the family and the child, and do an exam. Tests such as X-rays or CT scans usually are done and can help the specialists decide on the best treatment. How Is a Limb Difference Treated? To give the best treatment, health care providers consider how severe the limb difference is, whether it makes regular activities (such as walking or writing) hard, how old the child is, and whether the difference is likely to get worse and cause other problems. Sometimes no treatment is needed. When treatment is needed, it may include: physical therapy or occupational therapy bracing surgery What Else Should I Know? Your orthopedic team will help you find the best treatment for your child. Take time to understand exactly what will happen at each stage of the treatment plan. This way, you and your child know what to expect and can follow the plan. Remember that your care team is there to answer any questions and help you get the best result for your child. Back to Articles Related Articles Leg Length Discrepancy Leg length discrepancy is when someone’s legs are different lengths. For a big difference or one that's likely to get worse, treatment is recommended. Read More X-Ray Exam: Leg Length Some kids may have significant differences in the length of their legs, a condition known as leg length discrepancy. This X-ray exam can help doctors determine the exact difference in leg length so they can decide on a treatment. Read More Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip Babies can be born with this hip problem or develop it soon after birth. Early treatment can help the hip joint grow normally. Read More Limb Lengthening Surgery: External Fixator Limb lengthening surgery is done when someone has a leg length discrepancy (one leg is shorter than the other). Sometimes this is treated with an external fixator. Read More Limb Lengthening Surgery: Internal Lengthening Device Limb lengthening surgery is done when someone has a leg length discrepancy (one leg is shorter than the other). Sometimes this is treated with an internal lengthening device (a rod with a magnet). Read More Common Childhood Orthopedic Conditions Flatfeet, toe walking, pigeon toes, bowlegs, and knock-knees. Lots of kids have these common orthopedic conditions, but are they medical problems that can and should be corrected? Read More Blount Disease Blount disease is a growth disorder that causes the bones of the lower leg to bow outward. This gets worse if it's not treated, so early diagnosis is very important. Read More Clubfoot Clubfoot is a birth defect that makes one or both of a baby's feet point down and turn in. Most clubfeet can be successfully corrected using the nonsurgical Ponseti method. Read More Kyphosis Everyone's spine is slightly rounded forward at a gentle angle. If this angle is too pronounced, more than 50 degrees or so, it's called kyphosis, also known as roundback or hunchback. Read More Scoliosis Scoliosis makes a person’s spine curve from side to side. Large curves can cause health problems like pain or breathing trouble. Health care providers treat scoliosis with back braces or surgery when needed. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.