Effect of Foot and Ankle Immobilization on Leg and Thigh Muscles' Volume and Morphology: A Case Study Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging



Our aim was to determine the time course of any changes in muscle volume and shape in the lower limbs following immobilization. A healthy young woman (29 years) had suffered a fracture of the fifth metatarsal of the right foot. MRI scanning of her right thigh and calf muscles had been performed 1 month before the injury (Pre) during a scan initially planned as a teaching tool, 2 days following a 4-week immobilization period (Post), and after a 2-month recovery period (Post+2). The results show muscle volume decrements in the triceps surae (TS), quadriceps (Quad), and hamstring (Ham) of 21.9%, 24.1%, and 6.5%, respectively, between the Pre and Post measurements. At Post+2, the Quad and TS muscle volumes were still 5.2% and 9.5% lower, compared with the Pre data. The Ham muscle volume, however, was 2.7% greater than at the Pre phase. Following recovery, the increase in individual TS muscles volume was limited to both proximal and medial (with respect to the knee joint) segments of the muscles. These results indicate very substantial and rapid losses in muscle volumes, both proximally and distally to the immobilization site. The results also show that recovery is far from complete up to 2 months post cast removal. The results have implications for the requirements for rehabilitation for orthopedic patients. Anat Rec, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.