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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 18  |  Issue : 7  |  Page : 63-71

Hand X-ray in pediatric endocrinology: Skeletal age assessment and beyond

1 Pediatric and Adolescent Outpatient Clinic, Quisisana Hospital, Ferrara, Italy
2 Santobono-Pausilipon Hospital, Naples, Italy
3 Department of Pediatrics, Division of Endocrinology, Alexandria University Children's Hospital, Alexandria, Egypt
4 Department of Paediatrics, Pugliese-Ciaccio Hospital, Catanzaro, Italy
5 Department of Primary Health Care, AbuNakhla Hospital, Doha, Qatar
6 Radiology Clinic, Quisisana Hospital, Ferrara, Italy

Correspondence Address:
Vincenzo De Sanctis
Pediatric and Adolescent Outpatient Clinic, Quisisana Hospital, 44100 Ferrara
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2230-8210.145076

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Skeletal age assessment (SAA) is a clinical procedure which is used in determining the SA of children and adolescents. Bone development is influenced by a number of factors, including nutrition, hormonal secretions, and genetics. There are several factors to be borne in mind when using methods of assessing skeletal maturity. These include: Variability among methods, degree of variability in the estimation of skeletal maturation, sources of low accuracy, and dispersion of the values of skeletal maturation. Currently, the main clinical methods for SAA are the Greulich and Pyle (GP) and Tanner and Whitehouse (TW) methods. The GP method has the advantage of being quick and easy to use. A well-trained radiologist takes few minutes to determine the bone age (BA) from a single hand radiograph. The method of TW, however, seems to be more reliable than the GP method. In recent years, the increasing speed in computer sciences and reduction of their cost has given the opportunity to create and use computerized BA estimation system. Despite the fact that the number of automated systems for BAA have increased, most are still within the experimental phase. The use of automated BA determination system, cleared for clinical use in Europe (BoneXpert), has been validated for various ethnicities and children with endocrine disorders. Ultrasound imaging has some limitations that include operator dependence, lower intra-rater and inter-rater reliability of assessment and difficulties with standardization of documentation and imaging transfer. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is noninvasive alternative tool for SA assessment in children. However, few studies have been reported on this topic, and further research is needed to evaluate the reliability and validity of MRI BAAs. In conclusion, at present radiographic methods for the assessment of BA remain the gold standards. Whatever method one adopts, it is essential to minimize the causes of imprecision by taking care to consider the quality of the X-ray. Moreover, it is imperative to assume a correct hand positioning because poor positioning can change the appearance of some bones. It is also preferable to employ scoring methods to these techniques and percentiles rather than BA in years and months. In addition, the possible differences in maturation among different population should be kept in mind.

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