In vivo analysis of microcirculation following closed soft-tissue injury

J Orthop Res. 1999 Sep;17(5):678-85. doi: 10.1002/jor.1100170509.


Major loss of tissue is an almost invariable consequence of severe closed soft-tissue injury. Clinically, the extent of soft-tissue trauma determines the outcome of complex injuries and significantly influences bone healing. With use of a new animal model, this study quantitatively analyzed microcirculation, i.e., nutritive perfusion and leukocyte-endothelial cell interaction, in skeletal muscle after standardized closed soft-tissue injury. By means of a computer-assisted controlled-impact technique, a severe standardized closed soft-tissue injury was induced in the left hindlimb of 28 rats. The rats were assigned to four experimental groups (n = 7 per group) that differed by time of analysis (1.5, 24, 72, and 120 hours after injury); rats that were not injured served as controls (n = 7). Intramuscular pressure was measured, and microcirculation in the rat extensor digitorum longus muscle was analyzed by in vivo fluorescence microscopy, which allowed assessment of microvascular diameters, functional capillary density, number of rolling and adherent leukocytes in venules, and microvascular permeability. Edema weight gain was quantified by the ratio of wet to dry weight of the extensor digitorum longus muscle. Microvascular perfusion of the skeletal muscle was characterized by a significant reduction in functional capillary density, which was paralleled by an increase in capillary diameter throughout the 120 hours of observation when compared with the controls. Trauma-induced inflammatory response was reflected by a markedly increased rolling and adherence of leukocytes, primarily restricted to the endothelium of postcapillary venules; this was accompanied by increased microvascular permeability, indicative of a substantial loss of endothelial integrity. The microcirculation surrounding the core of the damaged tissue area resembled that of ischemia-reperfusion injury in skeletal muscle, i.e., heterogeneous capillary perfusion, pronounced microvascular leakage, and adherence of leukocytes. Enhanced vascular leakage and leukocyte adherence (24-72 hours after injury) coincided with the maximum intramuscular pressure (which was not indicative of compartment syndrome) and edema formation. These results demonstrate that initial changes, leading to ultimate tissue death, after closed soft-tissue injury are caused on the microcirculatory level. This standardized model provides further insight into microvascular pathophysiology and cellular interactions following closed soft-tissue injury. Thus, it is an adequate tool for testing novel therapeutic interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure
  • Capillary Permeability / physiology
  • Cell Adhesion / immunology
  • Cell Communication / immunology
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Edema / physiopathology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / cytology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / immunology
  • Heart Rate
  • Leukocytes / cytology
  • Male
  • Microcirculation / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / blood supply*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / injuries*
  • Pressure
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley*
  • Soft Tissue Injuries / physiopathology*