We studied soleus (SOL), plantaris (PLN), and gastrocnemius (GST) muscles to determine whether early cast removal minimizes muscle atrophy or permits recovery from atrophy after tendon repair. After right tendocalcaneus (Achilles tendon) was transected and repaired, rabbit right hindlimbs were immobilized with the ankle plantar flexed and the knee flexed to 90°, Rabbits were maintained in the cast and sacrificed at 5, 15, or 21 days postoperatively or the cast was removed on day 5 and the animals sacrificed at day 15 or 21. SOL, PLN, and GST muscles of both limbs were removed and weights, mean fiber cross‐sectional area, and percentage of Type I fibers and increased the percentage of Type IIc fibers. Ten days after cast removal (i. e., postoperative day 15), SOL muscle atrophy and fiber composition did not differ significantly from continuously immobilized controls. However, 16 days after cast removal (i. e., postoperative day 21), SOL muscle fiber cross‐sectional area and fiber composition were near normal, differing significantly from continuously casted controls. At each of the time intervals studied, PLN (containing many glycolytic fibers) did not atrophy as much as SOL (containing mainly oxidative fibers). Our results indicate that (1) early cast removal prevents atrophy of PLN glycolytic fibers, but not oxidative fibers in either PLN or SOL, and (2) early cast removal promotes recovery from atrophy of both oxidative and glycolytic fibers. In spite of the many differences between rabbits and humans, these findings suggest that, although early cast removal may not prevent oxidative muscle fiber atrophy after postoperative immobilization, it may facilitate recovery from atrophy. © 1992 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)