Surgical Mobilization of Skeletal Muscles Changes Functional Properties—Implications for Tendon Transfers

Taylor M. Winters, Michael Lim, Mitsuhiko Takahashi, Jan Fridén, Richard L. Lieber*, Samuel R. Ward

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: Tendon transfer surgery restores function by rerouting working muscle–tendon units to replace the function of injured or paralyzed muscles. This procedure requires mobilizing a donor muscle relative to its surrounding myofascial connections, which improves the muscle's new line of action and increases excursion. However, the biomechanical effect of mobilization on a donor muscle's force-generating function has not been previously studied under in vivo conditions. The purpose of this study was to quantify the effect of surgical mobilization on active and passive biomechanical properties of 3 large rabbit hind limb muscles. Methods: Myofascial connections were mobilized stepwise from the distal end to the proximal end of muscles (0%, 25%, 50%, and 75% of muscle length) and their active and passive length-tension curves were measured after each degree of mobilization. Results: Second toe extensor, a short-fibered muscle, exhibited a 30% decline in peak stress and 70% decline in passive stress, whereas extensor digitorum longus, a short-fibered muscle, and tibialis anterior, a long-fibered muscle, both exhibited similar smaller declines in active (about 18%) and passive stress (about 65%). Conclusions: The results highlight 3 important points: (1) a trade-off exists between increasing muscle mobility and decreasing force-generating capacity; (2) intermuscular force transmission is important, especially in second toe extensor, because it was able to generate 70% of its premobilization active force although most fibers were freed from their native origin; and (3) muscle architecture is not the major influence on mobilization-induced force impairment. Clinical relevance: These data demonstrate that surgical mobilization itself alters the passive and active force-generating capacity of skeletal muscles. Thus, surgical mobilization should not be viewed simply as a method to redirect the line of action of a donor muscle because this procedure has an impact on the functional properties of the donor muscle itself.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341.e1-341.e10
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Length–tension relationship
  • muscle architecture
  • muscle function
  • muscle mobilization
  • myofascial force transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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