Major Landmarks of Bones

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  • 0:02 Describing Bone Landmarks
  • 0:47 Epiphysis and Diaphysis
  • 1:50 Things that Stick Out
  • 4:21 Holes and Depressions
  • 5:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Betsy Chesnutt

Betsy teaches college physics, biology, and engineering and has a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering

Bones come in many shapes and sizes, and there are lots of medical terms that describe the common features that a bone may have. In this lesson, we will learn about the terms that are used to describe the major landmarks that can be found on a bone.

Describing the Major Landmarks of Bones

Bones come in all shapes and sizes, from the tiny auditory bones in your ear to the large long bones in your arms and legs. Some look really strange with many shapes that stick out, and some even have holes in them!

What do we call all these different parts of a bone? There are special words that can help you describe the parts of a bone. Many of these words may sound strange and unfamiliar to you. That's because they are usually derived from Latin and Greek words. You can learn more about these prefixes, suffixes, and root words in our other lessons in medical terminology

As we study these medical terms, keep in mind that a bone may have only a few or many of these landmarks, depending on its size, shape, and function.

Epiphysis and Diaphysis

To understand the words used to describe the parts of a bone, let's take a journey through your skeletal system. We'll start with the long bones of your body, like those found in your arms and legs.

The center part, or shaft, of a long bone is called the diaphysis. Just like many other medical terms, this is derived from Greek. The Greek prefix 'dia' always means 'through or across', just like in the word 'diameter', which is the 'distance all the way across a circle'.

Remember that just like the diameter goes across a circle, the diaphysis of a bone is the long part that goes across the whole bone and connects the two ends. The enlarged end of a long bone is called the epiphysis. The end of a bone may have other features on it, but the whole thing is called an epiphysis. Always remember that epiphysis is an enlarged end. All long bones have an epiphysis and a diaphysis, although other types of bones, like ribs and vertebrae, don't.

Things that Stick Out

Other terms that describe features of bones can be broken into two general categories - things that stick out, or empty spaces, like holes and pits in the bone. We'll start with the things that stick out.

A process is a prominent projection on a bone. Processes are often locations where bones make connections with ligaments, tendons, and other bones. For example, each vertebrae in your back has several processes where tendons connect or where one vertebrae connects to another.

Another great example of a process is the mastoid process, which is found on your skull just under your ear. This is where some of your jaw muscles connect to your jaw bones and allow you to chew. What do all of these processes have in common? They are all prominent projections, so to help you remember what a process looks like, always think a process is a prominent projection!

Processes can be further divided based on their size and shape. Condyles are rounded processes that connect with other bones in a joint. To remember what a condyle does, just think about how condyles connect! At the base of your skull are two condyles known as the occipital condyles. They are the area where the skull connects with the top vertebrae. There are two other big condyles at the front end of femur that connect with the tibia in your knee. So, remember condyles connect one bone to another!

A trochanter is another type of large, roughened process where tendons attach. To help you remember this, always think tendons touch trochanters! Near your hip on the top of your femur, there are two processes known as the greater and lesser trochanters. They are sites where the large muscles in your upper leg attach to your femur and allow you to move your hip joint.

Some bones, like the humerus in your upper arm, have round enlargements at the end known as heads. These are called heads because they look just like your head - round! Heads always form part of ball and socket joints. The round heads are the balls that fit into a socket on another bone.

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