Using a rat hindlimb model, the authors tested the hypothesis that, in muscles reinnervated after long-term denervation, atrophy-dependent and atrophy-independent mechanisms operate independently to produce force deficits. In adult rats, gastrocnemius muscles were subjected to denervation via tibial nerve transection. Reconstruction of the nerve lesion was delayed for periods ranging from 2 weeks to 1 year. After a minimum recovery period of 6 months after nerve repair, muscle mass and maximum isometric tetanic force were measured and specific force was calculated for each muscle (n = 40 muscles from 23 animals). After recovery, observed deficits in muscle mass and maximum tetanic force were directly proportional to the denervation interval. On the other hand, the deficit in specific force was not proportional to the denervation interval; all groups in which the nerve reconstruction was delayed for a month or longer demonstrated a deficit of 30 percent to 50 percent. These data support our hypothesis that, after prolonged denervation followed by reinnervation, the magnitude of the deficit in whole muscle force does not parallel the deficit in specific force. These data support the idea that mechanisms governing muscle atrophy are independent of those resulting in specific force deficits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1712-1718
Number of pages7
JournalPlastic and reconstructive surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - May 2004


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