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Lower limb - bones of

Other Terms: Inferior limb, Lower limb




The broad base of the inferior limb is the pelvic girdle. This girdle is the strong fusion of three bones, the ilium, ischium, and pubis. It is firmly anchored to the axial skeleton via ligamentous attachments at the sacro-iliac joint. The bony framework of the next segment of the limb, the thigh, is the femur with the sesamoid patella at its distal end. Distal to the femur, the tibia and fibula form the skeleton of the leg. The distal most region of the inferior limb is the foot consisting of seven tarsal bones, five metatarsal bones, and fourteen phalanges.


Inferior is from the Latin word infra meaning below. Appendage is Latin meaning to hang to or from. It comes from the Latin ad meaning to and pendere, the verb to hang. Limb arises from the Anglo-Saxon word lim. This word means a branch and has come to mean an arm or leg because they branch from the trunk.


The pelvic girdle forms a joint with the thigh element, the femur, at the highly mobile ball-and-socket joint of the hip. Distally the femur joins the patella and tibia to form the complex knee joint. The joints between the tibia and the fibula do not show the same mobility as the joints formed between the radius and ulna. Distally the tibia and fibula articulate with the large tarsal bone named the talus. The foot exhibits a variety of joints, from the plane joints between the tarsal bones to the hinge joints between the phalanges.


All the bones of the limbs ossify endochonrally. During this endochondral ossification the long bones of the limbs develop synchondrotic joints called epiphyseal growth plates. These cartilage plates form the growth centers during the early years (up to age 25) of postnatal life. Some general rules for ossification patterns in these bones are: 1) primary ossification centers appear during the end of the embryonic period; 2) secondary ossification centers appear near the time of birth; 3) secondary centers typically appear earlier in females; 4) secondary centers that appear early will usually fuse later.


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