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6.11: Compact bone

Compact bone is not the lifeless material it may appear at first glance. It is a living dynamic tissue with blood vessels, nerves and living cells that continually rebuild and reshape the bone structure as a result of the stresses, bends and breaks it experiences. Compact bone is composed of microscopic hollow cylinders that run parallel to each other along the length of the bone. Each of these cylinders is called a Haversian system. Blood vessels and nerves run along the central canal of each Haversian system. Each system consists of concentric rings of bone material (the matrix) with minute spaces in it that hold the bone cells. The hard matrix contains crystals of calcium phosphate, calcium carbonate and magnesium salts with collagen fibres that make the bone stronger and somewhat flexible. Tiny canals connect the cells with each other and their blood supply (see diagram 6.14).

Anatomy and physiology of animals Haversian system compact bone.jpg

Diagram 6.14 - Haversian systems of compact bone


  • Ruth Lawson (Otago Polytechnic; Dunedin, New Zealand)