Biology Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures


The prevalence of vertebral and peripheral characteristics of diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) in a late nineteenth and early twentieth century Almshouse cemetery

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76th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists / Philadelphia, PA, USA

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The Milwaukee County Almshouse Cemetery was the place of burial for the indigent of the city as well as residents of institutions for long term care. The cemetery was in active use from 1884 to 1925 and included an estimated 6,400 inhumations. Mitigation excavations of a construction impact area recovered 1,649 burials of which 588 were non-adults and 1,061 were adults at the time of death. The identity of the burials are unknown but records document a significant representation of northern Europeans, particularly Irish and Irish derived.

All of the remains were surveyed for indicators of pathologies and anomalies during which data were compiled on the occurrence of entheses on vertebral centra as well as enthesophytes at peripheral sites. A total of 102 individuals exhibit enthuses in the spine, but only 45 meet the formal definition of DISH.

The location of expression of enthuses and enthesophytes is highly variable. This variation is documented with differential occurrence of entheses in regions of the spine with co-occurrence of enthesophytes at peripheral sites. These data are presented by age group where it is noted that all adult age groups are affected but significant onset usually only occurs in individuals aged at forty or more years. Data are also presented on co-occurrence of DISH and DISH-like features with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Co-occurrence of DISH and osteoarthritis suggest an association with heavy manual labor while a co-occurrence of DISH and rheumatoid arthritis may reflect a differential susceptibility by ethnicity.

Conference Proceeding Title

Program of the 76th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists

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