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Sphenoid Bone

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The sphenoid bone or the Wasp bone is an unpaired bone that is situated in the skull or the cranium of the human head. The prime location of the sphenoid bone is in the frontal side of the brain, just before the occipital bone. There are eight bones that construct the entire cranium of the head and sphenoid bone is one of them.

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It can be described as the superior section of the skull that is responsible for the protection of the brain. The name sphenoid comes from the Greek term ‘sphenoeides’ which translates to ‘wedge-shaped’. It is a central unit in the skull and has a pretty complex shape consisting of the main body as well as two sets of wings along with the pterygoid process. 

Sphenoid Bone Anatomy 

The structure of the sphenoid bone is shaped somewhat like a butterfly. The main parts of the sphenoid bone consist of the body, greater wings, pterygoid process, and the lesser wings. 

Situated centrally along the skull’s midline is the body of the sphenoid bone. There are wings on either side of the body and the structure is quite complicated. The portion that faces the front helps in creating the nasal cavity. The sides of the body contribute to the creation of the optic canal. 

The sella turcica in the sphenoid bone is formed by the upper surface of the structure. It is created with the hypophyseal fossa (a small depression meant to hold the pituitary gland), the dorsum sellae, and tuberculum sellae. The sphenoid bone sella turcica has 2 anterior clinoid processes surrounding it along with 2 other bony protrusions. On the rear end, there are 2 eminences known as the posterior clinoid processes. These result in the deepened structure of the sella turcica. 

The lesser wings in the sphenoid bones rise from the frontal section and move to the sides. These wings have a triangular shape. The lower borders present in the lesser winds help in the creation of the orbits that hold the eyes. The upper borders create the cranial cavity which holds some parts of the brain. 

Situated behind the lesser wings, the greater winds run to the extreme sides. The shape of the greater wings is triangular as well and these run laterally to the sphenoid bone body. The sides of the greater wings create the infratemporal surfaces. These surfaces move backwards to join the sides and have a convex shape. The portions in the front help in the formation of the orbit’s sidewalls. Each of the wings has three different openings known as the foramen spinosum, foramen rotundum, and foramen ovale. These openings allow the passage of vessels and nerves such as the maxillary and the mandibular nerves. 

Essentially known as the extensions of the sphenoid bone’s body, the pterygoid processes are a very important part of the sphenoid bone anatomy. These processes have 2 different protrusions that emerge from the backside of the body and move downward. There are two canals in the processes known as the palatovaginal and the pterygoid canals. These canals also allow the passage of nerves and each canal has a hamulus, projecting the shape of a hook. 

Sphenoid Bone Location 

The location of the sphenoid bone is in the central section of the skull that is a part of the midline. This structure separates the occipital and the frontal bone. Aside from that, the sphenoid bone also articulates and connects to other bones that run along the side. Some examples of such bones include the ethmoid bone, parietal bone, temporal bone, vomer bone, and palatine bone, and zygomatic bone. These connections help provide a stable structure to the skull and help in holding the brain in its place. 

Sphenoid Bone Function 

Working together with the orbital floor in the skull, the sphenoid bone helps in the formation of the sides and base of the human skull. Some major components of the sphenoid bone also result in the formation of the facial skeleton. Since it is centrally placed in the skull, the bone also provides the skull with proper rigidity and assists in the protection of the nerve structures as well as the brain. The rear sections of the sphenoid bone act as attachment locations for muscles that play a role in talking or chewing. The foramina that are present in the sphenoid bone allow the important vessels and nerves to pass in and out the skull. The cavity present in the sphenoid bone further allows the formation of the sphenoid sinus which is connected to the nasal cavity.



According to sphenoid bone radiology, it is centrally located in the base of the skull and is considered to be one of the most complex structures of the human body. It creates the major boundary between the extracranial and intracranial structures and also acts as a conduit for different cranial nerves. The foramina extending from the sphenoid bones help in extending the orbits, hence making the structure extremely important for the functioning of the body.

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FAQs on Sphenoid Bone

1. Where is the sphenoid bone located?

Talking about the sphenoid bone location, it can be said that this bone is situated on the middle section of the skull base. It is also known as the wasp bone or the wedge-shaped bone because of the complicated structure that it has. The sphenoid bone is a key structure in the formation of the cranial floor because it connects with all the other important cranial bones to hold the brain structure together. The articulations of the sphenoid bone with other cranial bones help in providing rigidity to the entire skull. The sphenoid bone is joined anteriorly with the ethmoid and frontal bones. The temporal bones are connected to the sphenoid bone laterally and occipital bone forms a posterior connection with the sphenoid bone. The bone is situated slightly superior to the nasal cavity and forms a significant part of the sidewalls, rear walls, and floor of the orbits.

2. What is Sphenoid Sinusitis?

There can be a number of medical conditions that have an effect on the sphenoid bone. One of the most common cases is known as sphenoid sinusitis. This is the infection that occurs in the sphenoid sinuses and can create a huge problem for people. The occurrence of this condition can lead to other ailments such as weakness, post-nasal drip, and fever. In such cases, seeking out the help of a doctor and figuring out the right form of getting treated is the best solution. In case the infection is allowed to fester, the patients can develop chronic issues such as brain abscess, meningitis, and issues in the cranial nerves.

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