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

Proposal and validation of definitions for intact and fragmented osteons


1Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto, 2Office of Chief Medical Examiner, New York City, 3Institute of Forensic Science, Harris County

Saturday 2:30-2:45, Galleria North Add to calendar

Histological analysis of bone tissue has been used to explore a variety of questions relating to age-at-death, behavior, health and nutritional stress. These analyses often depend on identification of intact and fragmentary osteons, yet the working definitions of these features vary between researchers. The current definitions are often ambiguous or require subjective classifications by the observer. An exploratory study found inter-observer error and misidentification of these features to be significant. This study proposes new definitions for intact and fragmented osteons that are designed to limit observer subjectivity and focus on the biological significance of these microanatomical structures.

A sample of 30 sixth rib cross-sections from a modern forensic population was used to test the validity of these definitions. Observations of intact osteon population density (OPD(I)) and fragmentary osteon population density (OPD(F)) were made by three observers for each cross-section. These observations were used to analyze the inter-observer error and biological significance associated with the proposed definitions. Results indicate that the proposed definitions significantly reduce inter-observer error and misidentification of intact and fragmentary osteons; however, the inter-observer error associated with fragmentary osteons is high. The age-related biological significance observed using these definitions demonstrates that age-related accumulation of intact and fragmentary osteons is not equivalent. While the literature suggests combining OPD(I) with OPD(F) to reduce observer error, the results of this study suggest that doing so may reduce the ability to interpret bone remodeling.

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