Understanding normal fetal growth rates of the vertebral column, and between species, provide a basis to establish reference values for evaluation of body development and estimation of fetal age by ultrasonography. Goats are also widely used in biomedical perinatal research and are still considered a key to understanding the skeletal development. This study was carried out to clarify growth of length of vertebral column at segmental, regional, and total level of vertebral column in the fetal goats during different gestational age. The length of each vertebral segment of 25 goat fetuses, aged between 6 and 20 weeks were measured for each vertebra using a digital caliper. Our study demonstrated differences among various fetal ages in terms of regional, segmental, and total growth rate of the length of vertebral segments. With increase of fetal age, the relative length of vertebral segments of cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions diminished, whereas sacral and caudal regions increased in relative length. The thoracic vertebrae were the longest followed by cervical, lumbar, caudal, and sacral regions except at the oldest fetuses where caudal region became longer than lumbar region. Although the longest and shortest vertebral segments in cervical and lumbar regions were consistent among age groups, the trend of segmental growth of the vertebral regions was variable. Based on these detailed findings, the relative regional lengths of vertebral column were essentially different among fetal goats, humans, and neonatal rats. There is also a general trend of increasing segmental and regional initial growth and there is a relatively significant increase in growth rate caudally along the column during fetal period. This research yield important results that may be also useful for future orthopedic studies that contemplate the use of goat as a new model for the human spine.
KEY WORDS: Segmental growth; Vertebrae; Morphometrics; Goat fetus; Prenatal development.