Structure of a long bone, with epiphysis labeled at top.
The epiphysis is the rounded end of a long bone, at its joint with adjacent bone(s). Between the epiphysis and diaphysis (the long midsection of the long bone) lies the metaphysis, including the epiphyseal plate (growth plate). At the joint, the epiphysis is covered with articular cartilage; below that covering is a zone similar to the epiphyseal plate, known as subchondral bone.
There are four types of epiphysis:
- Pressure epiphysis: The region of the long bone that forms the joint is a pressure epiphysis (e.g. the head of the femur, part of the hip joint complex). Pressure epiphyses assist in transmitting the weight of the human body and are the regions of the bone that are under pressure during movement or locomotion. Another example of a pressure epiphysis is the head of the humerus which is part of the shoulder complex. condyles of femur and tibia also comes under the pressure epiphysis.
- Traction epiphysis: The regions of the long bone which are non-articular, i.e. not involved in joint formation. Unlike pressure epiphyses, these regions do not assist in weight transmission. However, their proximity to the pressure epiphysis region means that the supporting ligaments and tendons attach to these areas of the bone. Traction epiphyses ossify later than pressure epiphyses. Examples of traction epiphyses are tubercles of the humerus (greater tubercle and lesser tubercle), and trochanters of the femur (greater and lesser).
- Atavistic epiphysis: These types of fused bones are called atavistic, e.g., the coracoid process of the scapula, which has been fused in humans, but is separate in four-legged animals. ostrigonum (posterior tubercle of talus ) is another example for atavistic epiphysis.
- Aberrant epiphysis: These epiphyses are deviations from the norm and are not always present. For example, the epiphysis at the head of the first metacarpal bone and at the base of other metacarpal bones
Bones with an Epiphysis
There are many bones that contain an epiphysis:
- Humerus: Located between the shoulder and the elbow.
- Radius: One of two bones located between the hand and the elbow. In anatomical position, the radius is lateral to the ulna.
- Ulna: One of two bones located between the hand and the elbow. In anatomical position, the ulna is medial to the radius.
- Metacarpal: Bones of the hand. They are proximal to the phalanges of the hand.
- Phalanges: Bones of the fingers and toes. They are distal to the metacarpals in the hand and metatarsals in the foot.
- Femur: Longest bone in the human body. Located in the thigh region, between the hip and the knee.
- Fibula: One of two bones in the lower leg. It is lateral to the tibia and smaller.
- Tibia: One of two bones in the lower leg. It is lateral to the fibula and does most of the weight bearing.
- Metatarsal: Bones of the foot. Proximal to the medial cuneiform on the first metatarsal, and proximal to the phalanges for the other four.