The femur, or thigh bone, is the single bone of the thigh region (Picture 1). It is the longest and strongest bone of the body, and accounts for approximately one-quarter of a person’s total height.

  • The rounded, proximal end is the head of the femur, which articulates with the acetabulum of the hip bone to form the hip joint. The fovea capitis is a minor indentation on the medial side of the femoral head that serves as the site of attachment for the ligament of the head of the femur. This ligament spans the femur and acetabulum, but is weak and provides little support for the hip joint. It does, however, carry an important artery that supplies the head of the femur.
  • The narrowed region below the head is the neck of the femur. This is a common area for fractures of the femur.
  • The greater trochanter is the large, upward, bony projection located above the base of the neck. Multiple muscles that act across the hip joint attach to the greater trochanter, which, because of its projection from the femur, gives additional leverage to these muscles. The greater trochanter can be felt just under the skin on the lateral side of your upper thigh.
  • The lesser trochanter is a small, bony prominence that lies on the medial aspect of the femur, just below the neck. A single, powerful muscle attaches to the lesser trochanter. Running between the greater and lesser trochanters on the anterior side of the femur is the roughened intertrochanteric line. The trochanters are also connected on the posterior side of the femur by the larger intertrochanteric crest.
  • The elongated shaft of the femur has a slight anterior bowing or curvature. At its proximal end, the posterior shaft has the gluteal tuberosity, a roughened area extending inferiorly from the greater trochanter. More inferiorly, the gluteal tuberosity becomes continuous with the linea aspera (“rough line”). This is the roughened ridge that passes distally along the posterior side of the mid-femur. Multiple muscles of the hip and thigh regions make long, thin attachments to the femur along the linea aspera.

The distal end of the femur has medial and lateral bony expansions:

  • On the lateral side, the smooth portion that covers the distal and posterior aspects of the lateral expansion is the lateral condyle of the femur. The roughened area on the outer, lateral side of the condyle is the lateral epicondyle of the femur.
  • Similarly, the smooth region of the distal and posterior medial femur is the medial condyle of the femur, and the irregular outer, medial side of this is the medial epicondyle of the femur. The lateral and medial condyles articulate with the tibia to form the knee joint.

The epicondyles provide attachment for muscles and supporting ligaments of the knee. The adductor tubercle is a small bump located at the superior margin of the medial epicondyle. Posteriorly, the medial and lateral condyles are separated by a deep depression called the intercondylar fossa. Anteriorly, the smooth surfaces of the condyles join together to form a wide groove called the patellar surface, which provides for articulation with the patella bone. The combination of the medial and lateral condyles with the patellar surface gives the distal end of the femur a horseshoe (U) shape.