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Summary. In 10 patients with unilateral knee joint lesions, the injured leg was immobilized for 72 h by a plaster cast reaching from the hip to the ankle. At removal of the casts, open muscle biopsies were taken from the vastus medialis muscle on both sides. The muscle specimens were stained for myofibrillar ATPase activity and muscle fibre areas were measured on transverse sections. The differences in fibre size between the two sides were registered and statistically evaluated.

The reduction in fibre size on the immobilized side was 14.4% for the type 1 fibres and 17.3% for the type 2 fibres, respectively. However, these differences were not significant because of considerable variations from case to case, with an increase in fibre size on the immobilized side in three cases.

It is concluded that short time post-traumatic immobilization may have variable effects on the muscle fibre size and that one single biopsy might be insufficient to disclose early disuse atrophy whereas the method may be useful in cases of longer duration.