ABSTRACT

We measured the passive mechanical properties of intact, living human gracilis muscles (n=11 individuals, 10 male and 1 female, age: 33±12 years, mass: 89±23 kg, height: 177±8 cm). Measurements were performed in patients undergoing surgery for free-functioning myocutaneous tissue transfer of the gracilis muscle to restore elbow flexion after brachial plexus injury. Whole-muscle force of the gracilis tendon was measured in four joint configurations (JC1–JC4) with a buckle force transducer placed at the distal tendon. Sarcomere length was also measured by biopsy from the proximal gracilis muscle. After the muscle was removed, a three-dimensional volumetric reconstruction of the muscle was created via photogrammetry. Muscle length from JC1 to JC4 increased by 3.3±1.0, 7.7±1.2, 10.5±1.3 and 13.4±1.2 cm, respectively, corresponding to 15%, 34%, 46% and 59% muscle fiber strain, respectively. Muscle volume and an average optimal fiber length of 23.1±0.7 cm yielded an average muscle physiological cross-sectional area of 6.8±0.7 cm2 which is approximately 3 times that measured previously from cadaveric specimens. Absolute passive tension increased from 0.90±0.21 N in JC1 to 16.50±2.64 N in JC4. As expected, sarcomere length also increased from 3.24±0.08 µm at JC1 to 3.63±0.07 µm at JC4, which are on the descending limb of the human sarcomere length–tension curve. Peak passive muscle stress was 27.8±5.5 kPa in JC4 and muscle modulus ranged from 44.8 MPa in JC1 to 125.7 MPa in JC4. Comparison with other mammalian species indicates that human muscle passive mechanical properties are more similar to rodent muscle than to rabbit muscle. These data provide direct measurements of whole-human muscle passive mechanical properties that can be used in modeling studies and for understanding comparative passive mechanical properties among mammalian muscles.

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