Effect of rate of distraction on loss of range of joint movement, muscle stiffness, and intramuscular connective tissue content during surgical limb-lengthening: a study in the rabbit

Anat Rec. 1999 May 1;255(1):78-83. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0185(19990501)255:1<78::AID-AR9>3.0.CO;2-M.


Surgical lengthening of limbs often results in loss of range of joint movement and this has been shown to be associated with an increase in passive tension and an increase in collagen content of the muscles. In this study, we have investigated the length/tension properties and the connective tissue component of muscle distracted at three different rates in order to determine whether low rates of distraction would enable the connective tissue component, as well as the contractile component (number of serial sarcomeres), to adapt more completely to the increased functional length of the muscle and thus lead to improved range of joint movement. It was found that loss of range of movement varied with rate of distraction. At the low rate, there was no change in the passive tension or collagen content compared to muscles from sham-operated animals, and range of movement was significantly greater than at the other rates. At the medium rate, although the muscles showed good adaptation in terms of serial sarcomere number, passive tension and collagen content was increased and range of movement reduced, indicating that changes in the connective tissue component are important factors in loss of joint movement. In the case of muscle distracted at a high rate, failure of the muscle fibres to add on sufficient sarcomeres, combined with changes in the connective tissue, resulted in almost total loss of joint movement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Collagen / analysis
  • Extremities / surgery
  • Joints / physiology*
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / chemistry
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Osteogenesis, Distraction*
  • Rabbits
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology*
  • Sarcomeres


  • Collagen