Staging Clavicular Development on MRI: Pitfalls and Suggestions for Age Estimation

Jannick de Tobel, Elke Hillewig, Mayonne van Wijk, Steffen Fieuws, Michiel Bart de Haas, Rick R. van Rijn, Patrick Werner Thevissen, Koenraad Luc Verstraete

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19 Citations (Scopus)


Background: MRI of the clavicle's sternal end has been studied for age estimation. Several pitfalls have been noted, but how they affect age estimation performance remains unclear. Purpose/Hypothesis: To further study these pitfalls and to make suggestions for a proper use of clavicle MRI for forensic age estimation. Our hypotheses were that age estimation would benefit from 1) discarding stages 1 and 4/5; 2) including advanced substages 3aa, 3ab, and 3ac; 3) taking both clavicles into account; and 4) excluding morphological variants. Study Type: Prospective cross-sectional. Population: Healthy Caucasian volunteers between 11 and 30 years old (524; 277 females, 247 males). Field Strength/Sequence: 3T, T1-weighted gradient echo volumetric interpolated breath-hold examination (VIBE) MR-sequence. Assessment: Four observers applied the most elaborate staging technique for long bone development that has been described in the current literature (including stages, substages, and advanced substages). One of the observers repeated a random selection of the assessments in 110 participants after a 2-week interval. Furthermore, all observers documented morphological variants. Statistical Tests: Weighted kappa quantified reproducibility of staging. Bayes' rule was applied for age estimation with a continuation ratio model for the distribution of the stages. According to the hypotheses, different models were tested. Mean absolute error (MAE) differences between models were compared, as were MAEs between cases with and without morphological variants. Results: Weighted kappa equaled 0.82 for intraobserver and ranged between 0.60 and 0.64 for interobserver agreement. Stages 1 and 4/5 were allocated interchangeably in 4.3% (54/1258). Age increased steadily in advanced substages of stage 3, but improvement in age estimation was not significant (right P = 0.596; left P = 0.313). The model that included both clavicles and discarded stages 1 and 4/5 yielded an MAE of 1.97 years, a root mean squared error of 2.60 years, and 69% correctly classified minors. Morphological variants rendered significantly higher MAEs (right 3.84 years, P = 0.015; left 2.93 years, P = 0.022). Data Conclusion: Our results confirmed hypotheses 3) and 4), while hypotheses 1) and 2) remain to be investigated in larger studies. Level of Evidence: 1. Technical Efficacy: Stage 2. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2019.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-388
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of magnetic resonance imaging
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • adolescent
  • adult
  • age determination by skeleton
  • clavicle
  • magnetic resonance imaging

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