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The persistence of epiphyseal scars in the adult tibia

Abstract

Estimation of chronological age from skeletal material is dependent upon estimation of maturational stage observed. Following completion of epiphyseal fusion, a transverse radio-opaque line, termed “epiphyseal scar”, may be observed in the region of the former growth plate. According to the literature, this line is likely to become obliterated shortly after completion of epiphyseal fusion. Consequently, presence of an epiphyseal scar has been interpreted as an indication of recent epiphyseal fusion; however, this has not been validated by quantitative research. A study was undertaken to determine persistence of the epiphyseal scars in a cross-sectional population of adults between 20 and 50 years of age. This study examined 1,216 radiographs of proximal and distal tibiae from both sexes and sides of the body. This study suggested that 98.05 % of females and 97.74 % of males retained some remnant of the epiphyseal scar at the proximal tibia whilst 92.72 % of females and 92.95 % of males retained some remnant of the epiphyseal scar at the distal tibia. General linear model (GLM) analysis determined that chronological age accounted for 2.7 % and 7.6 % of variation in persistence of the epiphyseal scar at the proximal and distal tibiae, respectively. This study suggests that obliteration of the epiphyseal scar is not as dependent on chronological age as previously thought. It is, therefore, recommended that this feature not be used as an indicator of chronological age during forensic age assessment.

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Correspondence to Sue Black.

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Davies, C., Hackman, L. & Black, S. The persistence of epiphyseal scars in the adult tibia. Int J Legal Med 128, 335–343 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00414-013-0838-3

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Keywords

  • Forensic anthropology
  • Epiphyseal scar
  • Age estimation
  • Tibia
  • Radiographs