Compact Bone Tissue


Illustration shows a cross-section of a bone. The compact outer part of the bone is made up of cylindrical osteons that run its length. Each osteon is made up of a matrix of lamellae that surround a central Haversian canal. Arteries, veins and nerve fibers run through the Haversian canals. The spongy inner bone consists of porous trabeculae.
Compact bone tissue consists of osteons that are aligned parallel to the long axis of the bone, and the Haversian canal that contains the bone’s blood vessels and nerve fibers. The inner layer of bones consists of spongy bone tissue. The small dark ovals in the osteon represent the living osteocytes. (credit: modification of work by NCI, NIH)

Compact bone (or cortical bone) forms the hard external layer of all bones and surrounds the medullary cavity, or bone marrow. It provides protection and strength to bones. Compact bone tissue consists of units called osteons or Haversian systems. Osteons are cylindrical structures that contain a mineral matrix and living osteocytes connected by canaliculi, which transport blood. They are aligned parallel to the long axis of the bone. Each osteon consists of lamellae, which are layers of compact matrix that surround a central canal called the Haversian canal. The Haversian canal (osteonic canal) contains the bone’s blood vessels and nerve fibers. Osteons in compact bone tissue are aligned in the same direction along lines of stress and help the bone resist bending or fracturing. Therefore, compact bone tissue is prominent in areas of bone at which stresses are applied in only a few directions.


Clark, M., Douglas, M., Choi, J. Biology 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at:

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