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Int J Paleopathol. 2018 Sep;22:109-120. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpp.2018.07.007. Epub 2018 Jul 31.

Medical diagnostic methods applied to a medieval female with vitamin D deficiency from the north of Spain.

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Departament of Biology of Organisms and Systems, University of Oviedo, Asturias, 33006, Spain. Electronic address:
Bone and Mineral Research Unit, Instituto Reina Sofía de Investigación, Hospital Universitario Central de Asturias, Departament of Medicine, University of Oviedo, Asturias, 33006, Spain.
Department of Chemical Engineering and Environmental Technology, University of Oviedo, Asturias, 33006, Spain.
MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, Cardiff University School of Medicine, Hadyn Ellis Building, Maindy Road, Cardiff, CF24 4HQ, United Kingdom.
Departament of Biology of Organisms and Systems, University of Oviedo, Asturias, 33006, Spain.


Vitamin D deficiency is a pathological condition that affects bone metabolism by preventing proper mineralization, which eventually leads to bone deformities and other pathological conditions such as osteoporosis, increased bone fragility and fractures. The aim of this study is to present a case of vitamin D deficiency, but also to note how the application of several complementary techniques is a fundamental step in the establishing an accurate diagnosis. These techniques range from classical palaeopathological analysis to modern clinical practice. After the macroscopic examination of a medieval female skeleton from Palencia (Spain), where various bone deformations were observed, a differential diagnosis could not establish a definitive cause. Radiological, bone density, and histological studies were carried out, finally allowing to confirm a vitamin D deficiency suffered in both childhood and adulthood. This is a clear example, with practical applications, of the importance of interdisciplinarity to reveal insights about the life history and physical health of ancient individuals.


Bone mineral density; Histological study; Metabolic bone disease; Palaeopathology; Radiograph


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