oa South African Medical Journal - Age determination : conflicting evidence presented by anatomical and radiological data of the skeleton

Volume 24, Issue 52
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



With the help of several radiographs of the elbow joint taken in children whose ages were known, it is demonstrated that it would have been grossly misleading to judge their probable ages, by using the data concerning periods of epiphyseal fusion which are given in anatomy textbooks. The reason for the earlier disappearance of the epiphyseal lines on the radiographs, as compared with that of the epiphyseal lines on the bones, is explained. Several long bones are illustrated in which epiphyseal lines are visible, when the radiographs indicate that fusion between epiphysis and shaft had already occurred. In our present state of knowledge, the anatomical and radiographical criteria for age determination cannot be reconciled. and must be treated as separate entities. If in a particular case radiological evidence alone is available, a deduction of 'probable age' must be made on data supplied by radiologists. Vice versa, if the actual bones can be inspected. the periods of epiphyseal fusion established by anatomists can be used in order to make a deduction of 'probable age'.

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