The role of variable muscle adaptation to limb lengthening in the development of joint contractures: An experimental study in the goat

Marina Makarov, John Birch, Mikhail Samchukov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Muscle stiffness and joint contractures are currently regarded as the most common complications of limb lengthening. To better understand the mechanisms of joint contractures, architectural changes of all involved muscles were analyzed in 9 goats after 20% tibial lengthening with standard distraction protocol.All 13 muscles of the goat's tibia were found to be organized into an anterior compartment with 2 longitudinal and 4 pennate muscles and a posterior compartment with 1 longitudinal and 6 pennate muscles. Longitudinal muscles showed better compliance to distraction than pinnate muscles. Although muscle-to-bone lengthening ratio ranged widely (0-1.2), most of the muscles and especially those located in the posterior compartment showed much less lengthening than the bone. Muscular portions of the muscles lengthened more substantially (average, 17%) than their associated tendons (average, 7%). Muscle fiber length changes varied greatly between muscles (range, 0%-88%). Normalization of muscle fiber length revealed considerable elongation of anterior muscles fibers (25%) that was associated with an addition of new sarcomeres in series. Fiber length increase of all posterior muscles but one occurred by stretching of existing sarcomeres, with little addition or even dissolution of sarcomeres in series. This correlated with muscle mass changes showing significant muscle atrophy in the posterior compartment and better mass preservation in the anterior compartment.The study revealed striking difference in response to limb lengthening between individual muscles and muscles from antagonistic compartments in particular. Poor sarcomerogenesis in the posterior muscles leading to their insufficient length increase seems to play major role in the development of joint contractures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-181
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pediatric Orthopaedics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2009


  • Joint contractures
  • Limb lengthening
  • Skeletal muscles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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