Surprising evidence of pelvic growth (widening) after skeletal maturity

J Orthop Res. 2011 Nov;29(11):1719-23. doi: 10.1002/jor.21469. Epub 2011 May 23.


Following an increase in length and width during childhood and adolescence, skeletal growth is generally assumed to stop. This study investigates the influence of aging on the dimensions of the pelvis and the L4 lumbar vertebra during adulthood. The dimensions of the pelvis, L4 vertebra, and femoral heads were calculated for 246 patients who had received pelvic and abdominal Computed Tomography scans from the UNC Health Care System. Linear regression analysis determined the significance of relationships between age and width of the pelvis. There was a strong correlation between increasing patient age and increasing width of the pelvis at the trochanters, (0.333 mm/year of age p<0.0001), at the iliac wings, (0.371 mm/year of age p < 0.0002), and between the femoral heads, indicating that the bony pelvis widens over 20 mm between the ages of 20 and 80. The pelvic inlet did not enlarge over time while the distance between the hips and the femoral head diameter did significantly increase. The height of L4 did not increase over time, but the L4 width did increase. These correlations were seen in both genders. Surprisingly, our results suggest that the pelvis and L4 vertebra increase in width after skeletal maturity and cessation of longitudinal growth.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Bone Development / physiology*
  • Female
  • Femur Head / diagnostic imaging
  • Femur Head / growth & development
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / growth & development*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pelvic Bones / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pelvic Bones / growth & development*
  • Radiography
  • Random Allocation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult