The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Osteoarthritis of the hands: analyses of bones from the Coimbra identified collection (19th-20th centuries)


1CIAS - Research Center for Anthropology and Health, University of Coimbra, 2Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, Portugal

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Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most prevalent chronic rheumatic diseases in modern and archeological populations. This study aims to determine the frequency of osteoarthritis in hand bones and the biographic profiles of the individuals affected.

A sample of 123 individuals (62 males/61 females), from the Coimbra identified collection, (age at death ranging from 30-96 years old; mean=57.7; S.D.=17.63 years), was studied. OA was diagnosed applying the criteria proposed by Rogers and Waldron (1995).

The prevalence of OA is 56.1% (n=69/123), diagnosed in 57,4% of the females (35/61) and 54.8% (34/62) of the males with no statistical differences (X²=0,01;d.f.=1;p=0,919) between sexes. The mean age at death of the individuals with or without OA is, respectively, 65.1 and 48.4 years old. Right hands (49.6% or 61/123) were more affected than left (45.5% or 56/123), however this difference is not significant (X²=0,26;df=1;p=0,609), manifesting most frequently a bilateral pattern (69.6% or 48/69). According to the occupation, 53.3% (23/44) of the artisans/blue color workers and 49.2% (30/31) of the housekeepers/housewives presented respectively more OA in the right and left hands. There are small differences in the frequencies of bones with OA, with the first metacarpal, 26,3% on the right (31/118) and 21,2% (25/118) on the left, being the most affected.

These results bring new data about OA distribution in hand bones. More research in paleopathology is necessary on this topic.

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