Skeletal manifestations of rickets in infants and young children in a historic population from England Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Gross and radiographic changes characteristic of inadequate bone mineralization due to rickets are described in 21 immature skeletons from a 19th century urban population from Birmingham, England. The aims of the study are as follows: to evaluate and if possible augment existing dry-bone criteria for the recognition of rickets in immature skeletal remains; to investigate the value of radiography for the paleopathological diagnosis of rickets; and to compare and contrast the expression of rickets in this group with that previously documented for a rural agrarian population from Wharram Percy, England. Some gross skeletal signs of rickets which were not previously well-documented in paleopathological studies are noted. The worth of radiography for evaluating structural changes to both cortical and trabecular bone in the disease is demonstrated, and features useful for the interpretation of vitamin D deficiency are discussed. The pattern of skeletal elements affected and the severity of changes differs in the Birmingham group from that seen in the comparative rural population. It is emphasized that a variety of factors may influence the expression of rickets in paleopathological material, including rate of skeletal growth, age cohort affected, and intensity of vitamin D deficiency. Nevertheless, careful analysis, not only of the frequency of rickets but also of the degree of severity of lesions and the patterning with respect to skeletal elements affected, may enable more nuanced understanding of the biocultural context of the disease in earlier populations.

publication date

  • March 2006