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J Gravit Physiol. 1997 Jan;4(1):S15-21.

Effects of 20 days of bed rest on physiological cross-sectional area of human thigh and leg muscles evaluated by magnetic resonance imaging.

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  • 1Department of Life Science, University of Tokyo.


The present study was to investigate the effects of 20 days of bed rest on morphological characteristics of lower limb skeletal muscles. Ten sedentary volunteers (5 males and 5 females) were participating in this study. Magnetic resonance imaging techniques were used to measure the physiological cross-sectional areas (PCSAs) of the major muscles and muscle groups of the lower limb. Consecutive images were taken from the right thigh and leg of subjects, and muscle volumes (MV), muscle length, and fiber length were calculated. PCSA of each muscle was determined as MV times the cosine of the angle of fiber pennation divided by fiber length. PCSA of knee extensor and flexor muscles were significant reduced during and after bed rest. MV and PCSA of individual muscles in the knee extensors decreased by -5.1 % to -8.0%. In knee flexors, MV and PCSA in biceps femoris (long head), semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and sartorius decreased during and after bed rest. MV and PCSA in medial and lateralis [correction of andateralis] gastrocnemius, and soleus were remarkably reduced by -9.4 to -10.3% after bed rest. The results suggest that there is a great variability of muscle atrophy in the lower limb muscle groups or individual muscle after bed rest and that the plantar flexors primarily affected.

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