The response of muscle to leg lengthening

A H Simpson, P E Williams, P Kyberd, G Goldspink, J Kenwright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We used an experimental rabbit model of leg lengthening to study the morphology and function of muscle after different distraction rates. Lengthening was in twice-daily increments from 0.4 to 4 mm per day. New contractile tissue formed during lengthening, but some damage to the muscle fibres was seen even at rates of less than 1 mm per day; abnormalities increased with larger rates of lengthening. There was proliferation of fibrous tissue between the muscle fibres at distraction rates of over 1 mm per day. Active muscle function showed adaptation when the rate was 1.0 mm per day or less, but muscle compliance was normal only after rates of 0.4 mm per day. Muscle responded more favourably at rates of distraction slower than those shown to lead to the most prolific bone formation. At present the rate of distraction in clinical practice is determined mainly by factors which enhance osteogenesis. Our study suggests that it may be advisable to use a slower rate of elongation in patients with poor muscle compliance associated with the underlying pathology; this will allow better accommodation by the contractile and connective tissues of the muscles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)630-6
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Bone and Joint Surgery, British Volume
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1995


  • Animals
  • Bone Lengthening
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Rabbits
  • Sarcomeres
  • Tibia


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