Introducing standardized protocols for anthropological measurement of virtual subadult crania using computed tomography

Nicolene Lottering*, Donna M. MacGregor, Mark D. Barry, Mikaela S. Reynolds, Laura S. Gregory

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)



This study introduces and assesses the precision of a standardized protocol for anthropometric measurement of the juvenile cranium using three-dimensional surface rendered models, for implementation in forensic investigation or paleodemographic research. 

Materials and methods: 

A subset of multi-slice computed tomography (MSCT) DICOM datasets (n=10) of modern Australian subadults (birth-10 years) was accessed from the "Skeletal Biology and Forensic Anthropology Virtual Osteological Database" (n>1200), obtained from retrospective clinical scans taken at Brisbane children hospitals (2009-2013). The capabilities of Geomagic Design X form the basis of this study; introducing standardized protocols using triangle surface mesh models to (i) ascertain linear dimensions using reference plane networks and (ii) calculate the area of complex regions of interest on the cranium. 


The protocols described in this paper demonstrate high levels of repeatability between five observers of varying anatomical expertise and software experience. Intra- and inter-observer error was indiscernible with total technical error of measurement (TEM) values ≤0.56mm, constituting <0.33% relative error (rTEM) for linear measurements; and a TEM value of ≤12.89mm2, equating to <1.18% (rTEM) of the total area of the anterior fontanelle and contiguous sutures. 


Exploiting the advances of MSCT in routine clinical assessment, this paper assesses the application of this virtual approach to acquire highly reproducible morphometric data in a non-invasive manner for human identification and population studies in growth and development. The protocols and precision testing presented are imperative for the advancement of "virtual anthropology" into routine Australian medico-legal death investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-38
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Forensic Radiology and Imaging
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


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