Age dependence of epiphyseal ossification of the distal radius in ultrasound diagnostics
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By determining the ossification stage of the distal radial epiphysis, it is possible to gain important information to help clarify the question of whether various legally relevant age limits have been exceeded. Any examination of the hand by means of projection radiography such as that used in conventional skeletal age diagnostics is strictly regulated for reasons of radiation hygiene. In many areas of the law, there are no basic legal provisions authorising the performance of X-ray examinations. The present study examines the applicability of ultrasound diagnostics in assessing ossification processes in the distal radius. To this end, the ossification stages of the distal radial epiphysis were determined in 306 female and 309 male study participants aged between 10 and 25 years. In the female gender, ossification stage III was determined at an age of 13.4 years at the earliest, and ossification stage IV at 15.0 years at the earliest. In the male gender, ossification stage III was not observed until 14.3 years, and ossification stage IV not until 15.2 years. In the practice of forensic age estimation in living persons, sonographic examination of the distal radius in areas of application with no legal basis for authorising X-ray examinations makes it possible to improve the accuracy of age diagnosis by including criteria of skeletal maturation. In view of the existing legislative basis for the use of X-rays on human subjects, the exposure of individuals to radiation can be minimised.