Current issues with standards in the measurement and documentation of human skeletal anatomy

Justin Magee, Brian Mcclelland, John Winder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Digital modeling of human anatomy has become increasingly important and relies on well-documented quantitative anatomy literature. This type of documentation is common for the spine and pelvis; however, significant issues exist due to the lack of standardization in measurement and technique. Existing literature on quantitative anatomy for the spine and pelvis of white adults (aged 18–65 years, separated into decadal categories) was reviewed from the disciplines of anatomy, manipulative therapy, anthropometrics, occupational ergonomics, biomechanics and forensic science. The data were unified into a single normative model of the sub-axial spine. Two-dimensional orthographic drawings were produced from the 590 individual measurements identified, which informed the development of a 3D digital model. A similar review of full range of motion data was conducted as a meta-analysis and the results were applied to the existing model, providing an inter-connected, articulated digital spine. During these data analysis processes several inconsistencies were observed accompanied by an evidential lack of standardization with measurement and recording of data. These have been categorized as: anatomical terminology; scaling of measurements; measurement methodology, dimension and anatomical reference positions; global coordinate systems. There is inconsistency in anatomical terminology where independent researchers use the same terms to describe different aspects of anatomy or different terms for the same anatomy. Published standards exist for measurement methods of the human body regarding spatial interaction, anthropometric databases, automotive applications, clothing industries and for computer manikins, but none exists for skeletal anatomy. Presentation of measurements often lacks formal structure in clinical publications, seldom providing geometric reference points, therefore making digital reconstruction difficult. Published quantitative data does not follow existing international published standards relating to engineering drawing and visual communication. Large variations are also evident in standards or guidelines used for global coordinate systems across biomechanics, ergonomics, software systems and 3D software applications. This paper identifies where established good practice exists and suggests additional recommendations, informing an improved communication protocol, to assist reconstruction of skeletal anatomy using 3D digital modeling.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-251
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Sept 2012


  • digital human modeling
  • geometric reconstruction
  • vertebral and pelvic measurement.


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