Early rehabilitation for volumetric muscle loss injury augments endogenous regenerative aspects of muscle strength and oxidative capacity

Sarah M. Greising, Gordon L. Warren, W. Michael Southern, Anna S. Nichenko, Anita E. Qualls, Benjamin T. Corona, Jarrod A. Call

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Background: Volumetric muscle loss (VML) injuries occur due to orthopaedic trauma or the surgical removal of skeletal muscle and result in debilitating long-term functional deficits. Current treatment strategies do not promote significant restoration of function; additionally appropriate evidenced-based practice physical therapy paradigms have yet to be established. The objective of this study was to develop and evaluate early rehabilitation paradigms of passive range of motion and electrical stimulation in isolation or combination to understand the genetic and functional response in the tissue remaining after a multi-muscle VML injury. Methods: Adult male mice underwent an ~ 20% multi-muscle VML injury to the posterior compartment (gastrocnemius, soleus, and plantaris muscle) unilaterally and were randomized to rehabilitation paradigm twice per week beginning 2 days post-injury or no treatment. Results: The most salient findings of this work are: 1) that the remaining muscle tissue after VML injury was adaptable in terms of improved muscle strength and mitigation of stiffness; but 2) not adaptable to improvements in metabolic capacity. Furthermore, biochemical (i.e., collagen content) and gene (i.e., gene arrays) assays suggest that functional adaptations may reflect changes in the biomechanical properties of the remaining tissue due to the cellular deposition of non-contractile tissue in the void left by the VML injury and/or differentiation of gene expression with early rehabilitation. Conclusions: Collectively this work provides evidence of genetic and functional plasticity in the remaining skeletal muscle with early rehabilitation approaches, which may facilitate future evidenced-based practice of early rehabilitation at the clinical level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number173
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 29 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research received funding from the Alliance for Regenerative Rehabilitation Research & Training (AR3T) awarded to SMG and JAC, which is supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), and National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number P2CHD086843. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


  • Electrical stimulation
  • Neuromusculoskeletal injury
  • Orthopaedic trauma
  • Range of motion
  • Regenerative medicine
  • Skeletal muscle injury


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