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The use of computed tomography in determining development, anomalies, and trauma of the hyoid bone.

PURPOSE: Recognition of injury to the hyoid bone is intrinsic to post-mortem examination. Given its superficial location in the neck hyoid fractures are generally associated with some form of compressive neck force although they are well recognized in the peri-mortem period, in the context of manual handling and resuscitation. Hyoid fractures are variably reported to occur in manual strangulation and during hanging.

METHODS: In this study Computer Tomography (CT) scans of the head and neck of 431 deceased persons (235 males and 196 females) between the ages of 1 day and 100 years of age (mean age 35.93 ± 24.15) and including 25 victims of hangings were examined to reveal the pattern of age-related change and the types of injury that occurred. Hyoid variants were also documented.

RESULTS: The synchondroses between greater cornua and body were found to progressively fuse with age although in the current sample 20% non-fusion was observed beyond 65 years of age. Sex differences were evident in adult hyoid bones and discriminant function analysis correctly confirmed sex in 74.7% of cases.

CONCLUSIONS: The greatest age-related changes occurred from puberty to post-adolescence and a linear regression equation successfully assessed age into three general categories in 87.7% of cases. Hyoid fractures were documented in 24% of victims of hangings and while previous reports indicate these are more likely in older age, when synchondroses are fused, in this study the average age of victims with fracture was 27 ± 10 years. In the majority of cases the site of ligature was below the hyoid bone and in only one on the hyoid body.

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