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Radiology. 2004 Nov;233(2):505-14. Epub 2004 Sep 16.

Skeletal development in fetal pig specimens: MR imaging of femur with histologic comparison.

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  • 1Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA. susan.connolly@childrens.harvard.edu



To evaluate the magnetic resonance (MR) imaging features of the developing femur in fetal pig specimens.


MR images of 15 fetal pig femurs, which were categorized into three groups of specimens representing each third of the gestational period, were used to compare increasing femoral length (as an indication of gestational age) with epiphyseal growth in multiple dimensions by using Pearson product moment correlation. Physeal-epiphyseal demarcation, visibility of the secondary ossification center and its physis, prominence of the perichondrial structures (ie, groove of Ranvier and bone bark), metaphyseal undulation, and corticomedullary differences were evaluated qualitatively. These features were also evaluated on histologic sections.


With femoral length measurements used as indications of gestational age, there were three, five, and seven fetal pig specimens in each gestation group. During fetal development, the cartilaginous epiphysis of the distal femur transformed from an oval to a bicondylar structure, with most of the growth occurring sagittally (P < .001). Physeal-epiphyseal demarcation, visibility of the secondary ossification center and its physis, and metaphyseal undulation increased later in gestation. Detection of perichondrial structures, however, was greatest during the middle third of gestation and decreased thereafter. During the fetal period, the perichondrial groove of Ranvier and the bone bark were easily identifiable at MR imaging. Marrow cavitation increased with gestation.


MR imaging depicts fetal pig skeletal features that can be confirmed histologically and that may prove to be useful at human prenatal skeletal imaging.

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