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Muscle Nerve. 1988 Mar;11(3):231-44.

Adaptation of skeletal muscle to immobilization in a shortened position.

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Department of Anatomy, Howard University College of Medicine 20059.


This study determined the morphological changes and adaptations that occur following immobilization of rat soleus and gastrocnemius muscles when the ankle joint is placed in complete plantar flexion for 2, 5, 7, 14, 21, and 28 days by means of plaster casts. Previous studies of such shortened muscles have shown that the number of sarcomeres in series is reduced, but how the sarcomeres are reduced has not been determined. We observed that the fibers in the mid-belly region of the muscles demonstrated a progressive degenerative process over the first few weeks. Myofibrils across the entire width of the affected fibers underwent dissolution. However, by 4 weeks new myofibrils were being formed, and sarcomere lengths appeared normal. Portions of the fibers near the tendon underwent segmental necrosis. These findings are similar to the response of the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles to tenotomy and are clinically relevant to orthopedic procedures that maintain muscles in shortened conditions for prolonged periods.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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