The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Vertebral morphometric evaluation of stress in modern pediatric patients


1Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University, 2Division of Anatomy, The Ohio State University

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Multiple indicators of growth disruption have been implemented in evaluating systemic stress in past populations. The phenomenon of catch-up growth, however, can confound these interpretations. Researchers have thus utilized skeletal elements that cease growth during childhood relative to those that continue growth into adulthood to investigate lifetime stress. Vertebral neural canal (VNC) dimensions are fully formed by late childhood (approximately nine years old) while the vertebral bodies continue growth into adulthood. Prior studies have utilized the anterior-posterior (AP) and transverse (TR) measurements of the VNC in adults to identify “stunting” and evaluate childhood stress resulting in growth disruption. These morphometrics have been shown to be independent of age, sex, body size and ethnicity in adults. This study uses thoracic computed tomography (CT) obtained for multiple diagnostic purposes from 40 modern pediatric individuals to measure VNC dimensions. AP and TR thoracic VNC measurements are expected to vary with respect to age as well as chronic versus acute conditions. Results are consistent with previous studies using adult individuals to evaluate developmental disturbances. Patients less than nine years old with chronic illnesses experience stunted growth in the VNC compared to those with acute conditions. Meanwhile, patients greater than nine years old with no evidence of chronic illness show less variation in VNC dimensions as growth has ceased in this element. Access to the health history of known age pediatric individuals is crucial to evaluating the developmental variation within vertebral morphometrics used to investigate stress and growth disruptions in past populations.

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