The characteristics of a knemometer designed for accurate lower leg measurement in babies were assessed. Repeated measurement of a 100 mm Perspex rod gave a mean length of 99.993 mm and a mean SD of 0.058. When used to measure leg length, technical error of the measurement technique was 0.31 with a mean leg length of 98.49 mm (coefficient of variation 0.31%). Leg lengths measured at birth in 324 babies from 23 to 42 weeks' gestation gave an estimated in utero leg length velocity of 0.43 mm/day (95% confidence interval 0.41 to 0.45). Assessment of interobserver variation showed poor agreement in absolute values of leg length, although similar estimates of leg length velocity could be obtained. The neonatal knemometer allows measurements to be made in situations where conventional growth measurements are not possible. It is believed that knemometry has an important role in accurate evaluation of factors that can influence short term bone growth.
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