Dynamic MRI of plantar flexion: A comprehensive repeatability study of electrical stimulation-gated muscle contraction standardized on evoked force

PLoS One. 2020 Nov 5;15(11):e0241832. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0241832. eCollection 2020.


Quantification of skeletal muscle contraction in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive method for studying muscle motion and deformation. The aim of this study was to evaluate the repeatability of quantitative measures such as strain, based on single slice dynamic MRI synchronized with neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) and standardized to a similar relative force level across various individuals. Unilateral electrical stimulation of the triceps surae muscles was applied in eight volunteers during single-slice, three-directional phase contrast MRI acquisition at a 3T MRI scanner. To assess repeatability, the same process was executed on two different days by standardizing the stimulation aiming at evoking a fixed percentage of their maximal voluntary force in the same position. Except from the force, the effect of using the current as reference was evaluated on day two as a secondary acquisition. Finally, the presence of fatigue induced by NMES was assessed (on day one) by examining the difference between consecutive measurements. Strain maps were derived from the acquired slice at every time point; distribution of strain in the muscle and peak strain over the muscle of interest were evaluated for repeatability. It was found that fatigue did not have an appreciable effect on the results. The stimulation settings based on evoked force produced more repeatable results with respect to using the current as the only reference, with an intraclass correlation coefficient between different days of 0.95 for the former versus 0.88 for the latter. In conclusion, for repeatable strain imaging it is advisable to record the force output of the evoked contraction and use that for the standardization of the NMES setup rather than the current.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / instrumentation*
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction*
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Young Adult

Grant support

FS grant Nr. 172876 Swiss National Science Foundation http://www.snf.ch/ The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.