The chronology of epiphyseal union in the hand and foot from dry bone observations


  • H. F. V. Cardoso,

    Corresponding author
    1. Museu Nacional de História Natural & Centro de Biologia Ambiental, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal
    2. Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade do Porto, Portugal
    • Museu Nacional de História Natural & Centro de Biologia Ambiental, Universidade de Lisboa, Rua da Escola Politécnica, 58, 1269-102 Lisboa, Portugal.
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  • R. S. S. Severino

    1. Departamento de Biologia, Universidade de Évora, Évora, Portugal
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Dry bone data for epiphyseal union at the hand and foot are scarce, incomplete or inexistent. This study documents the timing of fusion of secondary ossification centres at the hand and foot in a sample of known-age human skeletons. The sample comprises 92 individuals (49 females and 43 males), between the ages of 9 and 22 years, from the identified skeletal collection curated at the National Museum of Natural History in Lisbon, Portugal. Epiphyseal union was recorded on the right and left side at the long bones of the hand (metacarpus and phalanges) and foot (metatarsus and phalanges), and also at the talus and calcaneus, using a three stage scheme (non-fused; partially fused and completely fused). In the hand, intra-observer agreement was 99% and inter-observer agreement was 98%. In the foot, both intra- and inter-observer agreement reached 100%. Lateral asymmetry was not significant and only 1.1% of the individuals in the sample were found to be asymmetric in the stage of epiphyseal fusion (1.8% in the hand and 0.3% in the foot). A minimum mean advancement of 1–2 years in females relative to males was observed. In the hand bones, epiphyseal union occurred between 12–18 years in females and 16–18 years in males. Comparatively, in the foot bones, epiphyseal union occurred slightly later, with the exception of the talus and calcaneus, which are the earliest bones to mature. Data in this study can be used to estimate the age of unidentified skeletal remains, either directly or by aiding in the modification of incomplete or imprecise data that have been collected over the years. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.