International Journal of Legal Medicine

, Volume 130, Issue 5, pp 1333–1341 | Cite as

A method for estimating gestational age of fetal remains based on long bone lengths

  • Cristiana CarneiroEmail author
  • Francisco Curate
  • Eugénia Cunha
Original Article


The estimation of gestational age (GA) in fetal human remains is important in forensic settings, particularly to assess fetal viability, in addition to often being the only biological profile parameter that can be assessed with some accuracy for non-adults. The length of long bone diaphysis is one of the most frequently used methods for fetal age estimation. The main objective of this study was to present a simple and objective method for estimating GA based on the measurements of the diaphysis of the femur, tibia, fibula, humerus, ulna, and radius. Conventional least squares regression equations (classical and inverse calibration approaches) and quick reference tables were generated. A supplementary objective was to compare the performance of the new formulae against previously published models. The sample comprised 257 fetuses (136 females and 121 males) with known GA (between 12 and 40 weeks) and was selected based on clinical and pathological information. All measurements were performed on radiographic images acquired in anonymous clinical autopsy records from spontaneous and therapeutic abortions in two Portuguese hospitals. The proposed technique is straightforward and reproducible. The models for the GA estimation are exceedingly accurate and unbiased. Comparisons between inverse and classical calibration show that both perform exceptionally well, with high accuracy and low bias. Also, the newly developed equations generally outperform earlier methods of GA estimation in forensic contexts. Quick reference tables for each long bone are now available. The obtained models for the estimation of gestational age are of great applicability in forensic contexts.


Fetus Age estimation Long bones Radiography Regression equations 



The authors would like to thank Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (grant no. SFRH/BPD/74015/2010).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cristiana Carneiro
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  • Francisco Curate
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Eugénia Cunha
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Garcia de Orta Hospital, EPEAlmadaPortugal
  2. 2.Lisbon School of Health TechnologyPolytechnic Institute of LisbonLisbonPortugal
  3. 3.Laboratory of Forensic Anthropology, Centre for Functional Ecology, Department of Life SciencesUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  4. 4.Research Centre for Anthropology and Health, Department of Life SciencesUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  5. 5.Interdisciplinary Center for Archaeology and Evolution of Human BehaviorUniversity of AlgarveFaroPortugal

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