Increased technetium uptake is not equivalent to muscle necrosis: scintigraphic, morphological and intramuscular pressure analyses of sore muscles after exercise

Acta Physiol Scand. 1993 Jun;148(2):187-98. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-1716.1993.tb09548.x.


A scintigraphic technique employing technetium pyrophosphate uptake was used to identify the area of skeletal muscle damage in the lower leg of four runners 24 h after an ultramarathon footrace (160 km). Most of the race had been run downhill which incorporated an extensive amount of eccentric work. Soreness was diffuse throughout the posterior region of the lower leg. In order to interpret what increased technetium uptake reflects and to express extreme endurance related damages, a biopsy was taken from the 3-D position of abnormal uptake. In addition, intramuscular pressures were determined in the deep posterior compartment. Scintigraphs revealed increased technetium pyrophosphate uptake in the medial portion of the gastrocnemius muscle. For 3698 fibres analysed, 33 fibres (1%) were necrotic, while a few other fibres were either atrophic or irregular shaped. A cluster of necrotic fibres occurred at the fascicular periphery for one subject and fibre type grouping occurred for another. Ultrastructural analysis revealed Z-line streaming near many capillaries and variously altered subsarcolemmal mitochondria including some with paracrystalline inclusions. The majority of the capillaries included thickened and irregular shaped endothelial cells. Intramuscular pressures of the deep posterior compartment were slightly elevated (12-15 mmHg) for three of the four subjects. Increased technetium uptake following extreme endurance running does not just reflect muscle necrosis but also subtle fibre abnormalities. Collectively, these pathological findings are attributed to relative ischaemia occurring during the race and during pre-race training, whereas, intramuscular pressure elevations associated with muscle soreness are attributed to mechanical stress caused by extensive eccentric work during the race.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Muscles / metabolism*
  • Muscles / pathology*
  • Muscles / physiopathology
  • Necrosis
  • Pain
  • Physical Endurance
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Pressure
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Running
  • Technetium Tc 99m Pyrophosphate / pharmacokinetics*


  • Technetium Tc 99m Pyrophosphate