ORIGINAL ARTICLE

European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 83, Issue 4, pp 409-415

Effects of electrical stimulation leg training during the acute phase of spinal cord injury: a pilot study

  • Regina M. CrameriAffiliated withSchool of Exercise and Sport Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, East St., Lidcombe, NSW 1825, Australia e-mail: r.crameri@cchs.usyd.edu.au Fax: +61-2-93519204
  • , Adele R. WestonAffiliated withSchool of Exercise and Sport Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, East St., Lidcombe, NSW 1825, Australia e-mail: r.crameri@cchs.usyd.edu.au Fax: +61-2-93519204
  • , Sue RutkowskiAffiliated withSpinal Cord Injuries Unit, Royal North Shore Hospital, St. Leonards, NSW 2065, Australia
  • , James W. MiddletonAffiliated withMoorong Spinal Unit, Royal Rehabilitation Centre Sydney, PO Box 6, Ryde, NSW 2112, Australia
  • , Glen M. DavisAffiliated withRehabilitation Research Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, East St., Lidcombe, NSW 1825, Australia
  • , John R. SuttonAffiliated withSchool of Exercise and Sport Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, East St., Lidcombe, NSW 1825, Australia e-mail: r.crameri@cchs.usyd.edu.au Fax: +61-2-93519204

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Abstract

Four individuals with a spinal cord injury underwent 16 weeks of isometric electrical stimulation training to both legs for 60 min, five times per week during the first 5 months after injury, while two SCI individuals remained untrained. A baseline biopsy sample of the vastus lateralis muscle was obtained within 1 month of injury, and another biopsy sample was taken after a further 16 weeks. The untrained, paralyzed skeletal muscle displayed a reduction in (1) type I fibers (from 50% to 9%), (2) myosin heavy chain (MHC) I (from 27% to 6%), and (3) fiber cross-sectional area of type I, type IIA and type IIX fibers (−62%, −68%, and −55%, respectively) when compared to the baseline sample of muscle taken within 1 month of injury. In contrast, the trained group showed smaller alterations in type I fibers (from 49% to 40%) and MHC I composition (from 39% to 25%), while fiber cross-sectional area was similar to baseline levels for type I, type IIA and type IIX fibers (−3%, −8%, and −4%, respectively). In conclusion, electrical stimulation training can largely prevent the adverse effects of a spinal cord injury upon paralyzed human skeletal muscle if applied soon after the injury.

Key words Paraplegia Muscle morphology Fiber type Myosin heavy chain Skeletal muscle