Height is fundamental to assessing growth and nutrition, calculating body surface area, and predicting pulmonary function in childhood. Its measurement is hindered by muscle weakness, joint, or spinal deformity. Arm span has been used as a substitute, but is inaccurate. The objective of the study was to identify a limb measurement that precisely and reproducibly predicts height in childhood. Males (n=1144) and females (n=1199), aged 5 years 4 months to 19 years 7 months, without disability were recruited from Melbourne schools. Height, arm span, ulna, forearm, tibia, and lower leg lengths were measured with a Harpenden stadiometer and anthropometer. Prediction equations for height based on ulna length (U) and age in years (A) were developed using linear regression. Ulna centile charts were developed by the LMS method. For males, height (cm)=4.605U+1.308A+28.003 (R2=0.96); for females, height (cm)=4.459U+1.315A+31.485 (R2=0.94). Intra- and inter-observer variability was 0.41% and 0.61% relative to the mean, respectively. Height prediction equations from tibia, forearm, and lower leg length were calculated. We show that ulna measurement is reproducible and precisely predicts height in school-age children. It appears to be superior to arm span measurement when neuromuscular weakness, joint, or spinal deformity exists. Ulna growth charts should facilitate growth assessment.
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