Assessment of Intra- and Intercostal Variation in Rib Histomorphometry: Its Impact on Evidentiary Examination


  • *Research presented orally at 56th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Dallas, TX, February 2004.

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Christian Crowder, Ph.D.
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ABSTRACT: Rib histological age estimation requires the evaluation of the middle third of the sixth rib. Human ribs have thin cortices and, when recovered, are often fragmented or absent, making it difficult to identify a specific midthoracic rib. This research explores the amount of microstructure variation in the middle third of the midthoracic ribs and determines whether the sixth rib age prediction equation can be applied to non-sixth ribs with similar accuracy. The amount of variability must be evaluated in order to meet the criterion for evidentiary examination. The sample consists of 120 cortical bone cross-sections from the middle third of ribs 3–8 removed from 20 cadavers. For each rib, osteon population densities (OPDs) and associated age estimates were calculated. The results demonstrate that non-sixth ribs can provide similar OPD values compared with those of the sixth ribs; however, individual variation proved to be significantly associated with bias, suggesting that individual factors influence the magnitude and direction of bias in non-sixth rib OPD values. This demonstrates the importance of evaluating multiple cross-sections (both intra- and inter-rib) to estimate age due to the normal remodeling variation within individuals.