Bone age studies are used to determine the skeletal age of the bones. When a growth problem appears in a child they will have an x-ray of the left wrist to determine if the skeletal age of the bones is causing a problem. The bones can appear to be older or younger than the child actually is. This is determined by the size of the apparent growth plates in the child’s left hand and wrist.
The x-ray itself is very simple and takes less than 5 minutes. When the scan is read, it is compared to an atlas of normal bone development scans. Comparing the scans is how the bone age is determined. If the skeletal age is higher or lower than the age of the child, it means that there could be a growth problem. Most often unless the skeletal age is severely advanced the doctor will monitor the bone growth and not recommend any further treatment.
Bone X-rays are also used to determine when a child will enter puberty, how tall they will be and how long they have to grow before the growth plates disappear and the bones are fused together. Bone x-rays can help determine if treatment for hormone disorders are working. These hormone disorders can include human growth hormone deficiency, adrenal gland hormone disorders, hypothyroidism, and early onset puberty.
Bone x-rays are used to determine when bones should be braced or if surgery should be performed if bone age is a determining factor. They are also used to track the progression of genetic growth disorders such as Marfan Syndrome and Turner Syndrome.
There is no necessary preparation for a bone x-ray. The child is standing up and placed next to the x-ray table. A lead apron will be placed over their body and their left hand will be placed flat on the table. The technician will then take the bone x-ray. Once the x-ray is viewed to make sure it is acceptable to read, you are done. The procedure itself is a very simple one.