Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Wikipedia.
the branch of anatomy that studies the skeleton.
Many bones were first described by Hippocrates, but osteology did not develop until the introduction of cadaver dissection, histological techniques, microscopy of bones, and roentgenography. The science is divided into general osteology, comparative osteology, developmental osteology, and special osteology; the last studies the development and structure of individual bones. Osteology achieved particular importance owing to improved surgical treatment of bone and joint diseases and injuries.
Many bone diseases are cured by orthopedic methods. The following classification of bone diseases has been adopted in the Soviet Union: traumatic, comprising fractures, traumatic arthroses, and deforming spondylosis; inflammatory, which can be specific (tuberculous and syphilitic bone diseases) or nonspecific (osteomyelitis, osteitis); degenerative, including toxic, alimentary, and endocrine bone diseases and bone diseases associated with diseases of the internal organs; and dysplastic, characterized by developmental anomalies of cartilage, osteosclerosis, or inadequate or excessive development of bones (for example, gigantism). Dysplastic bone diseases also include bone tumors, which can be benign (osteoma, chondroma) or malignant; in the latter case, the tumor is primary (osteogenic sarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Ewing’s tumor) or secondary (metastatic tumors).
Osteology is used in anthropology to determine the racial, sexual, or developmental patterns of variations in size and shape of the skeleton of modern man. The morphogenesis of the human skeleton is studied by examining the morphology of fossil man and tracing the intrauterine development of the skeleton.
Using both anthropometric and descriptive methods, osteology relies heavily on postmortem study of the skeleton. The data are analyzed statistically and graphically. One concern of osteology is to derive absolute numerical expressions for the sizes and ratios of sizes of bones. For example, the ratio of the transverse diameters of a long bone to the length is a useful expression of the massiveness of the bone. The angle of inclination of individual sections of bone, for instance, the longitudinal axis of a diaphysis or the neck of the femur, can be measured with appropriate instruments. Osteological and craniological data continue to be almost the only resources available for the study of the morphology of fossil man.