16 March 2012

World tallest man stops growing

Good news for Turkey's Sultan Kosen, at 2.51 metres the world's tallest living man: he has finally stopped growing.


Good news for Turkey's Sultan Kosen, at 2.51 metres the world's tallest living man: he can now say with confidence that he's finally grown up.

Nearly two years after gamma ray radio surgery at the University of Virgina, doctors confirmed that Kosen, 29, has overcome acromegaly, a rare hormonal disorder that caused him to keep growing well into adulthood.

"He's stopped growing, which is good," said neurosurgeon Jason Sheehan, who performed the non-invasive procedure that zapped the troublesome pituitary tumour deep inside Kosen's brain with extreme precision.

"He will still have some medical therapy to deal with the excessive height he has achieved," Sheehan said from the University of Virginia Medical Centre in Charlottesville, Virginia.

No additional challenges

"However, it is hopeful that he will not have any additional challenges because of continued growth."

Kosen now is travelling in Italy, where he "appears to be doing reasonably well" after recovering from previous thigh and hip fractures, said Sheehan, who spoke this week with the man's family and his Turkish endocrinologist.

Born into a farming family in Mardin, south-eastern Turkey, Kosen gained global celebrity status in September 2009 when Guinness World Records declared him to be "the tallest man in the world".

He was then 2.47 meters tall.

Kosen handy in changing light bulbs

"I never imagined I would be in the book," said Kosen when Guinness World Records introduced him to the global news media in the shadow of Tower Bridge in London. "I dreamed about it, but it was still a huge surprise."

He acknowledged he was handy at changing light bulbs and hanging drapes, but also frustrated at finding clothes – at least before a London tailor fitted him with a made-to-measure pinstripe suit.

But as one of the very few humans ever to grow beyond eight feet – the two tallest-ever National Basketball Association players, Manute Bol and Gheorghe Muresan, were 2.31 meters – he had unique medical issues.

He needed crutches to get around, and too much growth hormone wreaked havoc on his muscles, heart and other organs inside his lanky frame –issues that Sheehan said should now give way to better overall health.

Tumour cause excessive growth

Acromegaly typically results from a benign tumour in the pea-sized pituitary gland at the base of the brain. Such a tumour can result in the production of too much growth hormone, leading in turn to gigantism, or excessive growth.

Kosen turned to the University of Virginia after two attempts in Turkey and elsewhere in Europe to surgically cut out the tumour, as well as conventional radiotherapy, failed to resolve the problem.

In August 2010, Sheehan and his team treated Kosen's tumour with a precisely targeted shot of extremely high frequency gamma rays, using a non-invasive radio surgical device known as a Gamma Knife.

Acromegaly is a common disorder

Kosen spent just a day and a half in hospital. But while the University of Virginia puts about 30 cases of acromegaly under its Gamma Knife every year, his record-setting proportions posed a special challenge.

"There is a stereotactic frame or 'halo' that goes around a patient's head... and his head was too big to fit into the ordinary one," Sheehan said, so a special adapter was ordered from Sweden's Elekta, which builds the Gamma Knife.

"While Mr Kosen is the tallest person, he is not unique," Sheehan said. "In terms of pituitary disorders, acromegaly is one of the more common disorders you can have. Obviously, Sultan had an extreme case of it."

(Sapa, March 2012)

Read more:

Growth abnormalities

Hormonal disorders




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