BACKGROUND: A greater structural expansion of the rib cage in females compared with males has been described in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients; however, conflicting data exist as to whether an elongation of the bony ribs and sternum contributes to this expansion.OBJECTIVES: To compare height-adjusted anthropometric measures and sternum length between a group of normal subjects and a group of CF patients of both sexes.METHODS: Anthropometric measurements including body weight, height, upper and lower limb lengths, biacromial distance and pelvic width were measured in the standing position in 30 CF patients (13 males) and 28 normal subjects (14 males). Body surface measurements of anterior-posterior and lateral diameters of the rib cage at functional residual capacity, and sternum length were also obtained.RESULTS: Compared with normal subjects, CF patients had lower body weight, shorter standing height and shorter height-adjusted upper and lower limb lengths. Rib cage diameters were greater in CF patients than in normal subjects of either sex, but height-adjusted sternum length was not different.CONCLUSION: Significant differences in bodily proportions were found between normal subjects and CF patients, suggesting a differential growth pattern for the trunk and limbs. However, increased rib cage dimensions with lung hyperinflation and airway obstruction was not associated with an elongation of the sternum.