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Henry Gray (1825–1861). Anatomy of the Human Body. 1918.

6d. 5. The Sesamoid Bones

(Ossa Sesamoidea)

Sesamoid bones are small more or less rounded masses embedded in certain tendons and usually related to joint surfaces. Their functions probably are to modify pressure, to diminish friction, and occasionally to alter the direction of a muscle pull. That they are not developed to meet certain physical requirements in the adult is evidenced by the fact that they are present as cartilaginous nodules in the fetus, and in greater numbers than in the adult. They must be regarded, according to Thilenius, as integral parts of the skeleton phylogenetically inherited.  66 Physical necessities probably come into play in selecting and in regulating the degree of development of the original cartilaginous nodules. Nevertheless, irregular nodules of bone may appear as the result of intermittent pressure in certain regions, e.g., the “rider’s bone,” which is occasionally developed in the Adductor muscles of the thigh.   1   Sesamoid bones are invested by the fibrous tissue of the tendons, except on the surfaces in contact with the parts over which they glide, where they present smooth articular facets.   2   In the upper extremity the sesamoid bones of the joints are found only on the palmar surface of the hand. Two, of which the medial is the the larger, are constant at the metacarpophalangeal joint of the thumb; one is frequently present in the corresponding joint of the little finger, and one (or two) in the same joint of the index finger. Sesamoid bones are also found occasionally at the metacarpophalangeal joints of the middle and ring fingers, at the interphalangeal joint of the thumb and at the distal interphalangeal joint of the index finger.   3   In the lower extremity the largest sesamoid bone of the joints is the patella, developed in the tendon of the Quadriceps femoris. On the plantar aspect of the foot, two, of which the medial is the larger, are always present at the metatarsophalangeal joint of the great toe; one sometimes at the metatarsophalangeal joints of the second and fifth toes, one occasionally at the corresponding joint of the third and fourth toes, and one at the interphalangeal joint of the great toe.   4   Sesamoid bones apart from joints are seldom found in the tendons of the upper limb; one is sometimes seen in the tendon of the Biceps brachii opposite the radial tuberosity. They are, however, present in several of the tendons of the lower limb, viz., one in the tendon of the Peronæus longus, where it glides on the cuboid; one, appearing late in life, in the tendon of the Tibialis anterior, opposite the smooth facet of the first cuneiform bone; one in the tendon of the Tibialis posterior, opposite the medial side of the head of the talus; one in the lateral head of the Gastrocnemius, behind the lateral condyle of the femur; and one in the tendon of the Psoas major, where it glides over the pubis. Sesamoid bones are found occasionally in the tendon of the Glutæus maximus, as it passes over the greater trochanter, and in the tendons which wind around the medial and lateral malleoli.   5