Leg-stretching surgery for the image conscious has been banned by China's Health Ministry after a spate of botched operations.
"Only specialized orthopedic or comprehensive hospitals that have authorized orthopedic sections are allowed to conduct the operation," a ministry circular said.
"Some cosmetic institutions and unauthorized hospitals have carried out unnecessary leg-stretching operations and attracted customers through advertising," it said.
The operation, which involves breaking the patient's legs and stretching them on a rack, has become popular among young professionals desperate to raise their status in the country's height-conscious society.
However, poor techniques and operating conditions and a lack of nursing and recovery equipment have left many patients physically and psychologically scarred, and damaged the reputation of the medical profession in general, according to the circular.
Previously the country had no specific regulations on leg-stretching surgery. Only two general regulations on medical institutions and licensed doctors could be applied to unauthorized hospitals and doctors.
The circular stipulates that the surgery can only be conducted in orthopedic or comprehensive hospitals that do at least 400 orthopedic operations a year and offer post-surgery care and rehabilitation.
It also requires surgeons to be licensed orthopedic specialists with at least have five years of orthopedic clinical experience.
The surgery is restricted to strictly medical grounds, such as different limb lengths or damage caused by genetic problems, serious injury or disease, tumours or infection.
Hospitals are instructed to refuse patients who are unfit for the surgery and inform those suitable of its risks.
The ministry will regularly carry out quality evaluations of hospitals that carry out the operation, and will revoke their licenses if the quality cannot be ensured.
Last month, ten people were reported to have been disfigured after they underwent the operation last year. They were all introduced to the Beijing Xiangshan Hospital through a Chinese website that advocated "height surgery with no pain".
In China, height is sometimes listed as requirement for jobs or schools. Many employers require women to be at least 1.65 meters tall and men 1.70 meters. Schools for acting or broadcasting sometimes demand that women be at least 1.65 meters and men 1.75 meters.
According to the Beijing Institute of External Skeletal Alteration Technology, the cost of the surgery is about 15,000 to 25,000 U.S. dollars and it can require a recovery period of two years.
Leg-stretching surgery was originally developed in Russia to help patients with legs disfigured by accidents or birth defects such as dwarfism.