Would Knee Replacements Make Me Taller?

Emporium of Medicinal Wonderments: In an ongoing series, the curious men and women of The Atlantic share with me their physiological curiosities.

medman.jpg [C.E. Brock/FOBO]

Derek Thompson: Could double knee replacements make someone taller?

Asking for a friend, huh? [winking]

Actually, yes. My friend's dad is about to get them.

Ahhhhuuuuuh [winking, obnoxiously]

Dude.

OK well, tell your "friend's dad" who "just got --

Forget this. I'll just look it up on WedMD.

Please don't -- I'll tell you, I'll tell you. 

Some people are a little taller after knee replacements, yes.

That's what I thought.

When you get bad enough arthritis that you need a knee replacement, the cartilage in your knee is usually totally worn down. The end of your femur is basically sitting directly on your tibia. In the new prosthetic knee, it's like that cartilage space is there again. That can account for something in the vertical dimension - but only a few millimeters. And that's often negated by the other surgical changes.

So, nothing noticeable.

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I wouldn't expect any change in social status. Unless you were bow-legged or knock-kneed, and then you got knee replacements that ended up straightening you out, that could make you visibly taller. 

And that could get you a better job. The average CEO is six feet tall.

Maybe the knee replacements could actually pay for themselves. If not financially, romantically.

Next month's cover: "Why Short Men Still Can't Have It All."

Most women do prefer men who are taller than they are, but beyond that attractiveness doesn't seem to correlate directly with height. 

If anything, being significantly bow-legged might do more for you than the extra height. People used to be bow-legged all the time because of rickets. The vintage masculine persona is very in right now.

Ah yes, the sex appeal of rickets. 

If you walked around with a confident, unnaturally wide gait, like "I grew up hard, too busy living life to care out vitamin D," you could turn some heads.

But you've already got nice, straight knees.

Yeah. You too.

Presented by

James Hamblin, MD, is a senior editor at The Atlantic. He writes the health column for the monthly magazine and hosts the video series If Our Bodies Could Talk.

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