Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

OBJECTIVES: Bone age (BA) measurement in children is used to evaluate skeletal maturity and helps in the diagnosis of growth disorders in children. The two most used methods are Greulich and Pyle (GP), and Tanner and Whitehouse 3 (TW3), both based upon assessment of a hand-wrist radiograph. To our knowledge no study has compared and validated the two methods in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), and only a few have determined BA despite it being a region where skeletal maturity is often impaired for example by HIV and malnutrition. This study aimed to compare BA as measured by two methods (GP and TW3) against chronological age (CA) and determine which method is most applicable in peripubertal children in Zimbabwe. METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional study of boys and girls who tested negative for HIV. Children and adolescents were recruited by stratified random sampling from six schools in Harare, Zimbabwe. Non-dominant hand-wrist radiographs were taken, and BA assessed manually using both GP and TW3. Paired sample Student t-tests were used to calculate the mean differences between BA and chronological age (CA) in boys and girls. Bland-Altman plots compared CA to BA as determined by both methods, and agreement between GP and TW3 BA. All radiographs were graded by a second radiographer and 20 % of participants of each sex were randomly selected and re-graded by the first observer. Intraclass correlation coefficient assessed intra- and inter-rater reliability and coefficient of variation assessed precision. RESULTS: We recruited 252 children (111 [44 %] girls) aged 8.0-16.5 years. The boys and girls were of similar mean ± SD CA (12.2 ± 2.4 and 11.7 ± 1.9 years) and BA whether assessed by GP (11.5 ± 2.8 and 11.5 ± 2.1 years) or TW3 (11.8 ± 2.5 and 11.8 ± 2.1 years). In boys BA was lower than CA by 0.76 years (95 % CI: -0.95, -0.57) when using GP, and by 0.43 years (95 % CI: -0.61, -0.24) when using TW3. Among the girls there was no difference between BA and CA by either GP [-0.19 years (95 % CI: -0.40, 0.03)] or TW3 [0.07 years (95 % CI: -0.16, 0.29)]. In both boys and girls, there were no systematic differences between CA and TW3 BA across age groups whereas agreement improved between CA and GP BA as children got older. Inter-operator precision was 1.5 % for TW3 and 3.7 % for GP (n = 252) and intra-operator precision was 1.5 % for TW3 and 2.4 % for GP (n = 52). CONCLUSION: The TW3 BA method had better precision than GP and did not systematically differ from CA, meaning that TW3 is the preferred method of assessment of skeletal maturity in Zimbabwean children and adolescents. TW3 and GP methods do not agree for estimates of BA and therefore cannot be used interchangeably. The systematic differences in GP BA assessments over age means it is not appropriate for use in all age groups or stages of maturity in this population.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





Africa, Age, Children, Growth, Radiograph, Skeletal maturity, Male, Female, Adolescent, Humans, Child, Zimbabwe, Reproducibility of Results, Cross-Sectional Studies, Radiography, HIV Infections