Length and circumference measurements in one-joint and multijoint muscles in rabbits after immobilization

M. R. Gossman, S. J. Rose, S. A. Sahrmann, C. R. Katholi

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In this article, we compared changes in the length and circumference of the soleus and the plantaris muscles in rabbits. The rabbits were assigned to a nonimmobilized external control group (n = 4), an experimental shortened-position group (n = 10), or an experimental lengthened-position group (n = 9). One hind limb of each animal in the experimental groups was immobilized in a cast for four weeks to put the muscles in either a shortened or lengthened position. The contralateral limb served as an internal control for the animals in the experimental groups. After the immobilization period, the limbs were fixed in situ, the muscles were dissected, and length and circumference measurements were taken. In both experimental conditions, the immobilized soleus muscles were shorter than their contralateral counterparts (p < .05); the length of the plantaris muscles did not change. The immobilized muscles had decreased circumference values regardless of the immobilization angle. When compared with the control condition, the shortened soleus muscles had a greater decrease in circumference than did the plantaris muscles. More connective tissue was observed in the muscle bellies of the soleus after immobilization than in the plantaris. Similar significant changes (p < .05) were found in the nonimmobilized limbs of the animals in the experimental groups. Specifically, the soleus muscles demonstrated length and circumference changes, whereas the plantaris muscles showed changes only in circumference. These findings suggest that when a weight-bearing limb is immobilized, adaptations in gross muscle length and circumference are to be expected in the involved annd uninvolved limbs. An assessment of similar adaptations in humans should be part of the evaluation during recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)516-520
Number of pages5
JournalPhysical therapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1986


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