Cancellous bone

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Cancellous bone
Bone cross-section.svg
Illustration of a typical long bone showing the location of cancellous bone ("trabecular bone" on the image).
Spongy bone - trabecules.jpg
Light micrograph of cancellous bone showing its bony trabeculae (yellow and grey) and marrow tissue (purple).
Latin substantia spongiosa ossium
TA A02.0.00.004
FMA 24019
Anatomical terminology

Cancellous bone, synonymous with trabecular bone or spongy bone, is one of two types of osseous tissue that form bones. The other osseous tissue type is cortical bone also called compact bone.


Cancellous bone has a higher surface area to mass ratio than cortical bone because it is less dense. This gives it softer, weaker, and more flexible characteristics. The greater surface area in comparison with cortical bone makes cancellous bone suitable for metabolic activity e.g. exchange of calcium ions. Cancellous bone is typically found at the ends of long bones, proximal to joints and within the interior of vertebrae. Cancellous bone is highly vascular and frequently contains red bone marrow where haematopoiesis, the production of blood cells, occurs. The primary anatomical and functional unit of cancellous bone is the trabecula. It is commonly thought that the trabecula within the cancellous bone is aligned towards the mechanical load distribution that a bone experiences and this has been studied in the vertebral pedicle.[1]

Its Latin name is substantia spongiosa or substantia spongiosa ossium.[citation needed] The words cancellous and trabecular refer to the tiny lattice-shaped units that form the tissue.[citation needed] It was first illustrated accurately in the engravings of Crisóstomo Martinez.[2]

Clinical significance[edit]

In osteoporosis (specifically Type 1, aka post-menopausal), cancellous bone is more severely affected than cortical bone.


  1. ^ Gdyczynski, C.M.; Manbachi, A.; et al. "On estimating the directionality distribution in pedicle trabecular bone from micro-CT images". Journal of Physiological Measurements 35 (12): 2415–2428. doi:10.1088/0967-3334/35/12/2415. 
  2. ^ Gomez, Santiago (Feb 2002). "Crisóstomo Martinez, 1638-1694: the discoverer of trabecular bone". Endocrine 17 (1): 3–4. doi:10.1385/ENDO:17:1:03. ISSN 1355-008X. PMID 12014701. 

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