Metacarpal thickness (T), width (W), length (L) and medullary diameter (M) were measured in 3,121 X-rays from 231 healthy Caucasian children aged 3 to 19 years and analysed for bone age, age, height, weight and gender-related characteristics, showing highly differentiated growth patterns with prepubertal dips. Reference data for the four metacarpal measures are presented.
The aim of the study was to create and explore a reference database for metacarpal T, W, L and M in children.
Three thousand one hundred twenty-one left-hand X-rays (1,661 from boys) from 231 healthy Caucasian subjects (119 boys) aged 3 to 19 years were analysed by BoneXpert, a programme for automatic analysis of hand X-rays and bone age (BA; in years).
In boys, growth of T, W and L shows a prepubertal decrease from BA 7 to 13 and then accelerates again. In girls, the same is seen only for T starting from BA 8 to 11, whereas W and L grow at a declining rate. M shows steady growth until BA 10.5 in girls and BA 13.5 in boys and then grows smaller in both. W is greater in boys from BA 6 onwards, while L is greater in girls from BA 9 to 13 and T from BA 11 to 14. BA is reflected best by L until start of puberty and by T and L thereafter.
T, W, L and M show highly differentiated growth patterns. These reference data provide a basis for further research into skeletal development and the management of hormone therapies in children.