Sphenoid bone

Last revised by Frank Gaillard on 10 Oct 2023

The sphenoid bone is a large, complex, unpaired bone forming the central parts of the anterior and central skull base.

Parts of the sphenoid bone include:

The sphenoid bone articulates with twelve bones:

The sphenoid bone includes:

The lateral craniopharyngeal canal, located in the lateral sphenoid recess, medial to foramen rotundum.

The persistent hypophyseal canal, also known as the craniopharyngeal canal when larger, communicates from the pituitary fossa to the nasopharynx.

The sphenoid bone arises from multiple centers of ossification 6:

  • body

    • midline: presphenoid and postsphenoid, each with multiple centers of ossification

    • laterally: contribution from the medial crus of the orbitosphenoid

  • lesser wings: orbitosphenoids

  • greater wings: alisphenoids

Galen (129-199) first described the bone by this name. It is derived from the Greek σφήν (sphen) meaning wedge. Some sources claim that the intended name was sphecoid, derived from Greek σφηξ (sphex) meaning wasp, but was inaccurately copied or translated 4,5.

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: superior view
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  • Figure 2: posterior view
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  • Figure 3: nasal cavity (Gray's illustrations)
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  • Figure 4: nasal cavity (Gray's illustrations)
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  • Figure 4: superior view (Gray's illustrations)
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  • Figure 5: anteroinferior view (Gray's illustrations)
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  • Figure 6: posteroinferior view (Gray's illustrations)
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