Sphenoid bone

The sphenoid bone is situated in the center of the skull base and has direct contact with almost all other skull bones (except for nasal, lacrimal bone and mandible). It acts like the cornerstone transmitting and distributing the stress forces applied to the skull*.


  • * Holberg C, Rudzki-Janson I. Stresses at the cranial base induced by rapid maxillary expansion. The Angle Orthodontist, 2006;76(4):543-50.

  • Icon of crossfade image Download JPG image
    Sphenoid bone ex situ Sphenoid bone in situ
    Sphenoid bone ex situ & in situ.
    To better depict the position of this bone, the picture above shows the skull with the right zygomatic bone removed.

    Icon of crossfade image Front view of sphenoid bone with the terminology markup
    Front view of sphenoid bone
    Ventral aspect of sphenoid bone.
    The sphenoid bone comprises the central part — corpus, the pairs of greater and lesser wings, and pterygoid processes.
    The list of terms: Ala minor – Lesser wing of sphenoid
    Ala major – Greater wing of sphenoid
    Processus pterygoideus – Pterygoid process of the sphenoid
    Corpus – Body of sphenoid bone

    Icon of crossfade image Top view of sphenoid bone with the terminology markup
    Top view of sphenoid bone
    Top view of the sphenoid bone, demonstrating the — sella turcica — the saddle-shaped depression on top of the corpus ossis sphenoidalis surrounding the pituitary gland.
    The list of terms: Facies cerebralis alae minoris – Cerebral surface of lesser wing
    Facies cerebralis alae majoris – Cerebral surface of greater wing
    Jugum sphenoidale
    Sella turcica – Turkish saddle
    Dorsum sellae
    Tuberculum sellae
    Fossa hypophysialis – Hypophysial fossa
    Sulcus prechiasmaticus – Prechiasmatic groove
    Processus clinoideus anterior – Anterior clinoid process

    Icon of crossfade image Back view of sphenoid bone with the terminology markup
    Back view of sphenoid bone
    The dorsal aspect of the sphenoid demonstrating multiple openings and channels within that bone. Canalis opticus and fissura orbitalis superior connect fossa cranii media with the orbit, but foramen rotundum and canalis pterygoides are the pathways to the fossa pterygopalatina.
    The list of terms: Canalis opticus – Optic canal
    Fissura orbitalis superior – Superior orbital fissure
    Foramen rotundum – Round opening
    Canalis pterygoideus – Pterygoid (vidian) canal
    Impressiones digitatae – Digitate impressions
    Juga cerebralia – Cerebral ridges of cranium
    Processus pterygoideus – Pterygoid process
    Lamina lateralis processus pterygoidei – Lateral pterygoid plate
    Lamina medialis processus pterygoidei – Medial pterygoid plate
    Spina ossis phenoidalis – Angular spine of sphenoid

    Icon of crossfade image Oblique frontal view of sphenoid bone with the terminology markup
    Oblique frontal view of sphenoid bone
    Oblique frontal view of the sphenoid bone.
    Note the multiple different faces (facies) on the surface of wings, reflecting the complex topographical position of this bone situated in the very middle of the skull.
    The list of terms: Facies orbitalis alae majoris – Orbital surface of greater wing
    Facies temporalis alae majoris – Temporal surface of greater wing
    Facies maxillaris – Maxillary surface
    Facies infratemporalis – Infratemporal surface
    Facies orbitalis alae minoris – Orbital surface of lesser wing
    Margo zygomaticus – Zygomatic border
    Margo frontalis – Frontal border
    Margo parietalis – Parietal border
    Margo squamosus – Squamous border
    Crista infratemporalis – Infratemporal crest
    Concha sphenoidalis – Sphenoidal concha
    Apertura sinus sphenoidalis – Aperture of sphenoidal sinus
    Sinus sphenoidalis – Sphenoidal sinus
    Crista sphenoidalis – Sphenoidal crest
    Rostrum sphenoidale – Sphenoidal rostrum

    Icon of crossfade image Oblique dorsal view of sphenoid bone with the terminology markup
    Oblique dorsal view of sphenoid bone
    Dorsal oblique view demonstrating the sulcus caroticus — the groove made by the internal carotid artery passing along the corpus's lateral wall.
    The list of terms: Dorsum sellae
    Processus clinoideus posterior – Posterior clinoid process
    Processus clinoideus anterior – Anterior clinoid process
    Sulcus prechiasmaticus – Prechiasmatic groove
    Canalis opticus – Optica canal
    Sulcus caroticus – Carotid groove
    Lingula sphenoidalis
    Sulcus tubae ouditoriae – Groove for the cartilaginous part of the auditory tube
    Spina ossis sphenoidalis – Angular spine of sphenoid
    Fossa scaphoidea – Scaphoid fossa
    Incisura pterygoidea – Pterigoid notch
    Hamulus pterygoideus – Pterygoid hamulus

    Icon of crossfade image Inferior view of sphenoid bone with the terminology markup
    Inferior view of sphenoid bone
    Inferior aspect of sphenoid bone.
    The list of terms: Processus pterygoideus – Pterygoid process
    Hamulus pterygoideus – Pterygoid hamulus
    Sulcus hamuli pterygoidei – Sulcus of pterygoid hamulus
    Processus pterygospinosus – Pterygospinous process
    Foramen ovale
    Foramen spinosum
    Fossa scaphoidea – Scaphoid fossa
    Processus vaginalis – Vaginal process
    Sulcus vomerovaginalis – Vomerovaginal groove
    Sulcus palatovaginalis – Palatovaginal groove

    The topography of sphenoid bone. 360° rotation.

    First published: May/2019
    Last update: 12/Nov/2020