Background: Bone age in infants (<1 year old) is generally estimated using hand/wrist or knee radiographs, or by counting ossification centers. The accuracy and reproducibility of these techniques are largely unknown.
Objective: To develop and validate an infant bone age estimation technique using fibular shaft length and compare it to conventional methods.
Materials and methods: We retrospectively reviewed negative skeletal surveys of 247 term-born low-risk-of-abuse infants (no persistent child protection team concerns) from July 2005 to February 2013, and randomized them into two datasets: (1) model development (n = 123) and (2) model testing (n = 124). Three pediatric radiologists measured all fibular shaft lengths. An ordinary linear regression model was fitted to dataset 1, and the model was evaluated using dataset 2. Readers also estimated infant bone ages in dataset 2 using (1) the hemiskeleton method of Sontag, (2) the hemiskeleton method of Elgenmark, (3) the hand/wrist atlas of Greulich and Pyle, and (4) the knee atlas of Pyle and Hoerr. For validation, we selected lower-extremity radiographs of 114 normal infants with no suspicion of abuse. Readers measured the fibulas and also estimated bone ages using the knee atlas. Bone age estimates from the proposed method were compared to the other methods.
Results: The proposed method outperformed all other methods in accuracy and reproducibility. Its accuracy was similar for the testing and validating datasets, with root-mean-square error of 36 days and 37 days; mean absolute error of 28 days and 31 days; and error variability of 22 days and 20 days, respectively.
Conclusion: This study provides strong support for an infant bone age estimation technique based on fibular shaft length as a more accurate alternative to conventional methods.
Keywords: Bone age; Children; Elgenmark; Fibula; Greulich and Pyle atlas; Pyle and Hoerr; Radiography; Sontag.