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Journal of the Anatomical Society of India

The Human Sternum - as An Index of Age & Sex

Author(s): Gautam, R. S., Shah, G. V., Jadav, H.R., Gohil, B.J.

Vol. 52, No. 1 (2003-01 - 2003-12)

Department of Anatomy B.J. Medical College, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, INDIA

Abstract

Examination of any bone is important for identification of deceased and estimation of age and sex. In the present study, workers have tried to work out the criteria for determination of age and sex of the deceased with the help of sternum. Authors have studied 100 sterna procured from the cadavers brought for postmortem examination, whose age and sex was known. Fusion between various elements of sternum and various parts of sternum was measured. The data thus collected, were analysed statistically and conclusion was drawn. The conclusion will be of utmost importance to anthropologist and medicolegal experts.

Key words: Sternum, Age, Sex, Anthropology, Medicolegal

Introduction:

Lot of work has been done and ample literature is available in anatomy and anthropology for indentification of human skeleton. For medico-legal studies, examination of human skeleton has obviously an utmost importance for identification purpose. The experts are always facing a problem in identifying whether skeletal remains are human or not as well as estimation of correct age and sex of the specimen available. If the entire skeleton, is presented for examination, this can be achieved with almost cent percent accuracy, with the help of skull or pelvis it is up to 90% but without skull and pelvis, it becomes fairly difficult to judge the age and sex accurately.

Study of sternum as an individual parameter for determination of age and sex has been attempted by various workers. First recorded data is by Wenzel (1788). He described the difference in the ratio between the length of manubrium and that of mesosternum in both sexes. It was followed by Fiegel (1837), Dwight (1890), and Ashley (1956).

In the present study all existing parameters have been used by workers for determination of age and sex of an individual with the help of sternum. The data base of measurements and indices are statistically analysed and conclusions drawn.

Materials and Method:

The material for the present study consists of 100 sternum, obtained from the cadavers brought for medico-legal post-mortem examination at Ahmedabad. The sterna were removed from the cadavers by sectioning the costal certilages just beside the costo-chondral junction. Only those cases with age more than 15 years were considered. Deformed, diseased and fractured sterna were not included in the study.

The age of the deceased was obtained from the nearest relatives and police and was verified by necessary documents. The age of the deceased was rounded off to full figures.

The sterna thus collected were put in a water bath for a week for maceration. These were cleaned and examined intermittently on the 3rd, 5th and 7th days. After maceration and cleaning all the remains of the muscle and ligaments from the sterna, these were dried at room temperature.

For estimation of age the elements of each sternum i.e. manubrium, body and xiphoid process were examined for their fusion. The manubrio-sternal and xiphi-sternal articulations and sternal segments were carefully examined for degree of fusion : complete / partial /absent. For sexing the sternum, length as well as width of manubrium and body was measured.

Observations:

Observations of the present study are depicted in Table No. I to III

TABLE- I: MEAN VALUE OF LENGTH OF VARIOUS PARTS OF STERNUM

Sr. No. Worker Sex No. of Specimens Length of Manubrium (in m.m) Length of Mesosternum (in m.m) Combined length
1 Dwight (1881) M 30 51.80 105.90 ........
    F 26 46.70 89.40 ........
2 Dwight (1890) M 142 53.70 110.40 164.10
    F 86 49.40 91.90 141.30
3 Ashley (1956) M 85 45.90 96.50 142.60
    F 13 44.20 82.90 127.10
4 Jit (1986) M 312 51.73 95.35 147.08
    F 88 48.42 78.60 127.02
5 Present Study M 56 53.00 95.00 149.00
    F 44 48.00 76.00 124.00

TABLE-II: RELATION BETWEEN FUSION OF MANUBRIUM WITH THE BODY OF STERNUM & AGE-SEX

    Complete Partial Absent
Age Group (Years) Inci- dence Jit Present Study Jit Present Study Jit Present Study
    M F M F M F M F M F M F
18.20 No. 0 0 0 0 14 7 0 0 23 8 6 3
  % 0 0 0 0 27.5 23.3     45.1 26.7 100 100
21-25 No. 9 2 0 0 34 18 0 0 51 13 10 14
  % 6.9 3.3 0 0 26.2 30 0 0 39.2 21.7 100 100
26-30 No. 7 1 0 0 24 8 0 0 35 10 6 4
  % 6.9 3.6 0 0 23.8 28.6 0 0 34.7 35.7 100 100
31-35 No. 4 2 0 0 13 10 0 0 45 6 5 4
  % 4.4 8 0 0 14.3 40 0 0 49.5 24 100 100
36-40 No. 5 1 0 0 19 7 0 0 25 4 3 3
  % 7.4 8.3 0 0 27.9 58.3 0 0 36.8 33.3 100 100
41-45 No. 6 7 0 0 16 12 0 1 27 4 5 2
  % 7.9 21.8 0 0 21.1 37.5 0 33.3 35.5 12.5 100 66.6
46-50 No. 8 - - 0 0 11 - - 0 1 17 50 - - 5  
  % 12.1 - - 0 0 16.7   0 50 28.8   100 50
51-55 No. 4 - - 1 0 6 - - 3 1 13 - - 1 --
  % 9.8 - - 20 0 14.6   60 100 31.7   20 - -
56-60 No. 5 - - 1 0 6 - - 1 2 7 - - - - - -
  % 14.3 - - 33.3 0 17.1   66.6 100 20 - - - - - -
> 61 No. 4 - - 2 1 12 - - 2 2 13 - - 1 - -
  % 12.9   40 33.3 37.3   40 66.6 43.1 - - 20 - -

TABLE-III: RELATION BETWEEN FUSION OF XIPHOID PROCESS WITH THE BODY OF STERNUM & AGE-SEX

    Complete Partial Absent
               
Age Group (Years) Inci- dence Jit Present Study Jit Present Study Jit Present Study
M F M F M F M F M F M F
18-20 No. 3 0 0 0 6 4 0 0 42 100 26 6 3
  % 5.9 0 0 0 11.8 13.3 0 0 82.3 86.7 100 100
21-25 No. 18 6 0 0 10 2 0 0 80 43 10 14
  % 13.8 10 0 0 7.7 3.3 0 0 61.5 71.7 100 100
26-30 No. 7 7 0 0 26 0 0 0 59 18 6 4
  % 6.9 25 0 0 25.7 0 0 0 58.4 64.3 100 100
31-35 No. 20 6 0 0 17 2 3 2 48 13 2 2
  % 21.9 24 0 0 18.7 8 60 50 52.7 52 40 50
36-40 No. 21 3 2 1 27 1 2 2 16 5 1 1
  % 30.9 25 40 33.3 39.7 8.3 66.6 66.6 23.5 41.7 33.3 33.3
41-45 No. 22 11 1 2 15 3 2 1 19 12 1 1
  % 28.9 34.4 20 100 19.5 9.4 40 33.3 25 37.5 20 33.3
46-50 No. 34 - 4 1 6   4 - 15 - - -
  % 51.5 - 80 100 9.1 - 80 - 22.7 - - -
51-55 No. 30 - 3 1 1 - 1 - 7 - - -
  % 73.2 - 100 100 2.4 - 20 - 17.1 - - -
56-60 No. 23 - 3 40 2   0 - 5 - - -
  % 65.7 - 100 100 5.7 - 0 - 14.3 - - -
> 61 No. 34 - 2 3 10 - 3 - 9 - - -
  % 118 - 40 100 33 - 60 - 33.1 - - -

Discussion:

In the present study, fusion between third and fourth sternebrae was complete by 15 years. Between second and third sternebrae was complete by 21 years and between first and second sternebrae the fusion was complete by 21 yeras. The fusion of the different sternal elements takes place in relation to age, but is totally independent of the sex of the subject. Regarding fusion of xiphoid process with body of sternum it was complete by 50 years. Fusion of manubrium with body of sternum starts at the age of 40 and it is complete by 55 years. Regarding the length of manubrium in present study, it is in the range of 35mm to 70mm in male and 40mm to 61 mm in female. The combined length of manubrium & body of sternum ranges from 101 mm to 192mm in male and 98 mm to 150mm in female.

Regarding mean length of the manubrium, Dwight (1890) got 51.8 for male and 46.7 for female; Ashley (1956) got 52.2 for male and 47.9 for female. Jit & Bakshi (1986) found 51.73 for male and 48.42 for female.In present study it is 53 and 44 respectively. (all measurements in mm)

The combined mean length of manubrium and body of sternum is 164.1 for male and 141.3 for female according to Dwight (1890). Ashley (1956) found it 156.9 for male and 138.7 for female and according to Jit & Bakhshi (1986) it was 147.08 for male and 127.02 for female. In present study it is 149 for male and 124 for female. (measurements in mm)

The width of manubrium, in present study ranges from 38 to 72 mm in male and 41 to 68 mm in female. The width of body of sternum in present study ranges from 21 to 62 mm in male and 24 to 51 mm. in female.

Conclusion:

The pattern of fusion of sternal elements has no relation with sex. The fusion of the third and fourth sternebrae is complete at puberty. The fusion of the first and second and second and third sternebrae occurs by the age of 25 years. The fusion of xiphoid process with body of sternum starts after 30 years. In the most of the cases the fusion is complete after the age of 50. The fusion of the munubrium with the body of sternum begins after the age of 40. Complete fusion occurs after the age of 50.

If the length of the manubrium is less then 33 mm then it is of a female. It is exceeds 63mm it is of a male.

If the length of the body of sternum is less than 48mm then it is of female, if it is more than 106mm then it is male. If the combined length of a sternum is less than 92mm then it is of female where as if it exceeds 161mm, it is of male.

The width of manubrium and body as well as sternal index is of no significance for sex determination of sternum.

Bibliography:

  1. Ashley, G.T. (1956) The human sternum - The influence of sex & age on its measurements. Journal of Forensic Mediciene : 3: 27- 43
  2. Dwight, T. (1890) The sternum as an index of sex, Age and Height Journal of Anatomy: 24 : 527- 535
  3. Dwight T. (1881) The sternum as an index of sex, Age and Height Journal of Anatomy : 15 : 327 - 330.
  4. Feigal, J.T.A (1837) Vollstandieges hundbuch deer Anatomic auf thren Jet Zigen, wurzburg, cited by Jit Inder (1980), American Journal of Anthropology, 53 : 217 - 224.
  5. Jit, I and Bakshi, (1986) Time of fusion of the human mesosternum with manubrium and xiphoid process. Indian Journal of Medical Research, 83 : 322-331.
  6. Wenzel, J (1788), Cited by Ashley G.T. (1956) : A comparison of human and anthropoid mesosterna, American at. Soc. India 52(1) 20-23 (2003)
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