Myofascial force transmission causes interaction between adjacent muscles and connective tissue: effects of blunt dissection and compartmental fasciotomy on length force characteristics of rat extensor digitorum longus muscle

Arch Physiol Biochem. 2001 Apr;109(2):97-109. doi: 10.1076/apab.


Muscles within the anterior tibial compartment (extensor digitorum longus: EDL, tibialis anterior: TA, and extensor hallucis longus muscles: EHL) and within the peroneal compartment were excited simultaneously and maximally. The ankle joint was fixed kept at 90 degrees. For EDL length force characteristics were determined. This was performed first with the anterior tibial compartment intact (1), and subsequently after: (2) blunt dissection of the anterior and lateral interface of EDL and TA. (3) Full longitudinal lateral fasciotomy of the anterior tibial compartment. (4) Full removal of TA and EHL muscles. Length-force characteristics were changed significantly by these interventions. Blunt dissection caused a force decrease of approximately 10% at all lengths, i.e., without changing EDL optimum or active slack lengths. This indicates that intermuscular connective tissue mediates significant interactions between adjacent muscles. Indications of its relatively stiff mechanical properties were found both in the physiological part of the present study, as well as the anatomical survey of connective tissue. Full lateral compartmental fasciotomy increased optimum length and decreased active slack length, leading to an increase of length range (by approximately 47%), while decreasing optimal force. As a consequence an increase in force for the lower length range was found. Such changes of length force characteristics are compatible with an increased distribution of fiber mean sarcomere length. On the basis of these results, it is concluded that extramuscular connective tissue has a sufficiently stiff connection to intramuscular connective tissue to be able to play a role in force transmission. Therefore, in addition to intramuscular myofascial force transmission, extramuscular force transmission has to be considered within intact compartments of limbs. A survey of connective tissue structures within the compartment indicated sheet-like neuro-vascular tracts to be major components of extramuscular connective tissue with connections to intramuscular connective tissue stroma. Removal of TA and EHL yielded yet another decrease of force (mean for optimal force approximately 10%). No significant changes of optimum and active slack lengths could be shown in this case. It is concluded that myofascial force transmission should be taken into account when considering muscular function and its coordination, and in clinical decisions regarding fasciotomy and repetitive strain injury.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Compartment Syndromes / physiopathology
  • Compartment Syndromes / surgery
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / physiopathology
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Fascia / anatomy & histology
  • Fascia / physiology*
  • Fasciotomy
  • Forelimb / anatomy & histology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / anatomy & histology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / surgery
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar