Cancellous bones

Cancellous bone
Illustration of a typical long bone showing the location of cancellous bone.
Light micrograph of cancellous bone showing its bony trabeculae (pink) and marrow tissue (blue).
Latin substantia spongiosa ossium
Gray's subject #18 86

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.


Compared to compact bone, cancellous bone has a higher surface area to mass ratio 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.

Its Latin name is substantia spongiosa or substantia spongiosa ossium.[1] The words cancellous and trabecular refer to the tiny lattice-shaped spicules that form the tissue.[1] It was first illustrated accurately in the engravings of Crisóstomo Martinez.[2]

Clinical Significance

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

See also

  • Cortical bone, the other type of osseous tissue, which forms the hard outer layer of bone organs


External links

  • 02601lba - "Cartilage and Bone and Bone Histogenesis: trabecular, woven and lamellar bone"
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