Skeletal age determinations in children of European and African descent: applicability of the Greulich and Pyle standards

Pediatr Res. 2001 Nov;50(5):624-8. doi: 10.1203/00006450-200111000-00015.


This study assesses the value of the Greulich and Pyle method in determining the skeletal ages of healthy American children of European and African descent born after the year 1980. The hand and wrist radiographs of 534 children (265 boys, 269 girls; 260 European-Americans [EA], 274 African-Americans [AA]), ages 0 to 19 y, were analyzed by two experienced pediatric radiologists blinded to the chronological age of the subjects. A difference score was calculated for each subject by subtracting chronological age from the mean bone ages scores provided by the two raters. One group t-tests were performed to verify the hypothesis that the mean difference score was equal to zero. Skeletal age determinations by the two radiologists showed a high degree of agreement by intraclass correlation coefficient (r = 0.994). The range of values for differences in skeletal and chronological ages was very wide, indicating great individual variability. Comparisons between skeletal and chronological age only reached statistical significance in EA prepubertal girls, whose skeletal ages were delayed, on average, by three months (t = -2.9; p = 0.005). Mean difference between skeletal and chronological age in prepubertal children of African descent was 0.09 +/- 0.66 y, while that in children of European descent was -0.17 +/- 0.67 y; (t = 3.13; p = 0.0019). On average, the bone ages of 10% of all prepubertal AA children were 2 SD above the normative data in the Greulich and Pyle atlas, while the bone ages of 8% of all prepubertal EA children were 2 SD below. In contrast to the racial differences observed in prepubertal children, EA postpubertal males had significantly greater values for bone age than AA postpubertal males (t = 2.03; p = 0.05). In conclusion, variations in skeletal maturation in prepubertal children are greater than those reflected in the Greulich and Pyle atlas; prepubertal American children of European descent have significantly delayed skeletal maturation when compared with those of African descent; and, postpubertal EA males have significantly advanced skeletal maturation when compared with postpubertal AA males. New standards are needed to make clinical decisions that require reliable bone ages and to accurately represent a multiethnic pediatric population.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Black People*
  • Bone Development*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • White People*