Release of fascial compartment boundaries reduces muscle force output, 2018

Topics: compartment, fasciotomy, intramuscular pressure, muscle, tendon

Authors: Roy J. Ruttiman, David A. Sleboda, and Thomas J. Roberts


Most limb muscles operate within a compartment defined by fascial layers that enclose a muscle or groups of muscles within a defined space. These compartments are important clinically, because fluid accumulation can cause ischemia and tissue necrosis if untreated. Little is known, however, about how fascial enclosures influence healthy muscle function. One previous study showed that removing a fascial covering reduced the force output of a muscle under maximal stimulation. We hypothesized that such reduction in force output was due to a change in the muscle length following fasciotomy and that a reduced force output could be explained by the length-tension relationship of muscle. Thus we predicted that the maximum force across a range of lengths would be unchanged following fasciotomy. We measured maximal tetanic force output in a wing muscle in wild turkeys both before and after removal of fascia that enclosed the muscle in a compartment. Our hypothesis was not supported. The length-tension curve of this muscle showed that removal of fascia reduced maximum force output to 72 ± 10% of the prefascial release condition. Thus a reduction in muscle force following fasciotomy was not explained by a change in muscle length. The mechanism underlying reduction in force is unclear, but it suggests that the assumption underlying most isolated muscle experiments, i.e., removal of a muscle from its situation in vivo does not influence its maximal mechanical output, may need reexamining. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Most limb muscles are enclosed within compartments bound by robust fascial sheets. The mechanical significance of the close packing of muscle and fascia is largely unexplored. We used an animal model to show that removal of a fascial covering reduces the maximal force developed during contraction. These results raise questions about the use of isolated muscles to estimate muscle performance and suggest that a muscle’s mechanical surrounding influences performance by mechanisms that are not understood.

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