FRIDAY, Jan. 4, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Both initiation and completion of the process of epiphyseal fusion (EF) are occurring earlier in children than they did a century ago, according to a study recently published in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research.

Melanie E. Boeyer, from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and colleagues retrospectively evaluated 1,292 children born between 1915 and 2006 participating in the Fels Longitudinal Study. Between one and 39 serial left hand-wrist radiographs were performed on each participant during childhood to determine the first sign of EF initiation (EF-I) and the first chronological age when EF was complete (EF-C).

The researchers found that approximately half of the hand and wrist radiographs examined showed earlier EF-I and/or earlier EF-C in children born in 1995 versus those born in 1935. The age at EF-I and EF-C decreased by as much as 6.7 and 6.8 months, respectively, in boys and 9.8 and 9.7 months, respectively, in girls. This change occurred gradually during the past century. A shift in timing was more likely in the more proximal traits (EF of the distal radius, distal ulna, and metacarpals), while timing of EF in the phalanges remained relatively stable across birth years.

“Shifts in the timing of EF have the potential to influence treatment strategies for skeletal growth and/or developmental disorders such as scoliosis or leg length inequality, moving treatment windows to earlier ages,” the authors write.

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