Selective thigh muscle atrophy in trans-tibial amputees: an ultrasonographic study
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In trans-tibial amputees, PTB (patellar tendon bearing) prostheses provide almost physiological mobility of the knee joint in the sagittal plane. Nevertheless, there are characteristic adaptations of the knee joint muscles. Myosonography is a suitable method for depicting muscle atrophy and hypertrophy due to muscle dysfunction. The present study was intended to assess anatomical alterations of thigh muscles in trans-tibial amputees wearing a PTB prothesis. Thicknesses and cross-sectional areas of the quadriceps femoris, sartorius, gracilis, semitendinosus and biceps femoris muscles were determined ultrasonographically on both limbs in 17 amputees with a PTB prothesis. The gait was analysed using an optoelectronical system, force plates and surface electromyography of the vastus lateralis and biceps femoris muscles. Quadriceps femoris and sartorius muscles of the amputated extremity exhibited significant atrophy compared with the contralateral limb (reduction of muscle thickness ranged between 11.7% and 30.4%), whereas the gracilis and hamstring muscles were not significantly affected. Even the quadriceps femoris muscle of the non-amputated limb showed a slight atrophy compared with a reference group. Increased echointensities were found predominantly in the quadriceps muscle on the amputated leg. During gait, electromyographical activity within the amputated limb was reduced in the vastus lateralis and increased in the biceps femoris muscle. Even long-term adaptation to PTB prostheses results in characteristic deviation from normal gait. Atrophy occurs in the ventral thigh muscles, predominantly on the amputated leg, whereas the dorsal thigh muscles are hardly affected, probably due to compensatory hyperactivity.
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