Epiphyseal ossification centres on fetal ultrasound

Identification of  fetal skeletal epiphyseal ossification centers on ultrsound can be a useful tool for estimating gestaional age, particularly at a time near fetal lung maturity.

Specifically the distal femoral epipyses (DFE) and the proximal tibial epiphyses (PTE) can be used.

  • distal femoral epipyseal (DFE) ossicifation center 
    • may be seen as early at 29 weeks of gestation
    • can be seen at 33 weeks in most fetuses
    • when the DFE was greater than or equal to 7 mm the gestational age was greater than or equal to 37 weeks.
  • proximal tibial epiphyseal (PTE) ossificiation center
    • if seen it can be assumed that the fetus is at least 35 weeks gestation

Several precautions should be taken

  • while the presence of these centers may be helpful in determining fetal gestational age and / or lung maturity their absence does not indicate that a fetus is necessarily earlier in gestation or does not have fetal lung maturity
  • adjacent structures to the cartilaginous centers ie synovium or capsule should not be misinterpreted as the epiphyseal centers 
  • the identification of a DFE of any size may not correlate with fetal lung maturity particularly in complicated pregnancies, such as the diabetic patient.
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Article Information

rID: 14610
System: Obstetrics
Tags: cases, refs
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Epiphyseal ossification centres on antenatal ultrasound

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