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J Neurol. 1990 Feb;237(1):29-34.

Effects of long-impulse electrical stimulation on atrophy and fibre type composition of chronically denervated fast rabbit muscle.

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Neurological Clinic, University of Erlangen-N├╝rnberg, Federal Republic of Germany.


The efficacy of electrical stimulation on a chronically denervated muscle depends on stimulus parameters, which have an important influence on the development of atrophy. Stimulus frequency and/or total activity are particularly responsible for the development of some histological, biochemical and contractile features. The present study in 18 rabbits deals with a recently developed electrical stimulus, which had proved effective in maintaining muscle force following denervation. This current has (1) unusual long bidirectional rectangular impulses (20 ms) and (2) a frequency of 25 Hz, which is between the frequencies of fast- and slow-firing motor units. Electrical stimulation began 28 (in one animal 53) days after total motor and sensory denervation of the right hindleg, and was continued until the end of the experiment, up to 205 days. To mimic a therapeutic regimen, which should be agreeable to patients, daily treatment times were kept to a minimum (2 x 6 min), and surface electrodes were used. Morphometric evaluation of the fast flexor digitorum sublimis muscle showed that such electrical stimulation was able to preserve fibre diameter at a level of 72-86% of the initial values for several months, while unstimulated fibres showed the usual atrophy with a decrease of diameters below 40% of normal. The stimulation induced a "hybrid" fibre type with properties of a slow muscle (rich in mitochondria in NADH-dependent tetrazolium reductase staining and electron microscopy) as well as of a fast-twitch muscle (fibre type IIb in myofibrillar ATPase stainings).

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