Morphometric modelling of ageing in the human pubic symphysis: Sexual dimorphism in an Australian population

Nicolene Lottering*, Mikaela S. Reynolds, Donna M. MacGregor, Matthew Meredith, Laura S. Gregory

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Despite the prominent use of the pubic symphysis for age estimation in forensic anthropology, little has been documented regarding the quantitative morphological and micro-architectural changes of this surface. Specifically, utilising post-mortem computed tomography data from a large, contemporary Australian adult population, this study aimed to evaluate sexual dimorphism in the morphology and bone composition of the symphyseal surface; and temporal characterisation of the pubic symphysis in individuals of advancing age. The sample consisted of multi-slice computed tomography (MSCT) scans of the pubic symphysis (slice thickness: 0.5mm, overlap: 0.1mm) of 200 individuals of Caucasian ancestry aged 15-70 years, obtained in 2011. Surface rendering reconstruction of the symphyseal surface was conducted in OsiriX® (v.4.1) and quantitative analyses in Rapidform XOS™ and Osteomeasure™. Morphometric variables including inter-pubic distance, surface area, circumference, maximum height and width of the symphyseal surface and micro-architectural assessment of cortical and trabecular bone compositions were quantified using novel automated engineering software capabilities. The major results of this study are correlated with the macroscopic ossification and degeneration pattern of the symphyseal surface, demonstrating significant age-related changes in the morphometric and bone tissue variables between 15 and 70 years. Regardless of sex, the overall dimensions of the symphyseal surface increased with age, coupled with a decrease in bone mass in the trabecular and cortical bone compartments. Significant differences between the ventral, dorsal and medial cortical surfaces were observed, which may be correlated to bone formation activity dependent on muscle activity and ligamentous attachments. Our study demonstrates significant sexual dimorphism at this site, with males exhibiting greater surface dimensions than females. These baseline results provide a detailed insight into the changes in the structure of the pubic symphysis with ageing and sexually dimorphic features associated with the cortical and trabecular bone profiles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195.e1-195.e11
JournalForensic Science International
Volume236
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes

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