Estimation of sex and age of "virtual skeletons"--a feasibility study

Eur Radiol. 2009 Feb;19(2):419-29. doi: 10.1007/s00330-008-1155-y. Epub 2008 Sep 3.


This article presents a feasibility study with the objective of investigating the potential of multi-detector computed tomography (MDCT) to estimate the bone age and sex of deceased persons. To obtain virtual skeletons, the bodies of 22 deceased persons with known age at death were scanned by MDCT using a special protocol that consisted of high-resolution imaging of the skull, shoulder girdle (including the upper half of the humeri), the symphysis pubis and the upper halves of the femora. Bone and soft-tissue reconstructions were performed in two and three dimensions. The resulting data were investigated by three anthropologists with different professional experience. Sex was determined by investigating three-dimensional models of the skull and pelvis. As a basic orientation for the age estimation, the complex method according to Nemeskéri and co-workers was applied. The final estimation was effected using additional parameters like the state of dentition, degeneration of the spine, etc., which where chosen individually by the three observers according to their experience. The results of the study show that the estimation of sex and age is possible by the use of MDCT. Virtual skeletons present an ideal collection for anthropological studies, because they are obtained in a non-invasive way and can be investigated ad infinitum.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Determination by Skeleton*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Forensic Medicine / instrumentation
  • Forensic Medicine / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Anatomic
  • Observer Variation
  • Skeleton
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*