The impact of muscle disuse on muscle atrophy in severely burned rats

Xiaowu Wu, Lisa A. Baer, Steven E. Wolf, Charles E. Wade, Thomas J. Walters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background: Severe burn induces a sustained hypermetabolic response, which causes long-term loss of muscle mass and decrease in muscle strength. In this study, we sought to determine whether muscle disuse has additional impact on muscle atrophy after severe burn using a rat model combining severe cutaneous burn and hindlimb unloading. Methods: Forty Sprague-Dawley rats (≈300 g) were randomly assigned to sham ambulatory (S/A), sham hindlimb unloading (S/HLU), burn ambulatory (B/A), or burn hindlimb unloading (B/HLU) groups. Rats received a 40% total body surface (TBSA) full thickness scald burn, and rats with hindlimb unloading were placed in a tail traction system. At d 14, lean body mass (LBM) was determined using DEXA scan, followed by measurement of the isometric mechanical properties in the predominantly fast-twitch plantaris muscle (PL) and the predominantly slow-twitch soleus muscle (SL). Muscle weight (wt), protein wt, and wet/dry wt were determined. Results: At d 14, body weight had decreased significantly in all treatment groups; B/HLU resulted in significantly greater loss compared with the B/A, S/HLU, and S/A. The losses could be attributed to loss of LBM. PL muscle wt and Po were lowest in the B/HLU group (<0.05 versus S/A, S/HLU, or B/A). SL muscle wt and Po were significantly less in both S/HLU and B/HLU compared with that of S/A and B/A; no significant difference was found between S/HLU and B/HLU. Conclusions: Cutaneous burn and hindlimb unloading have an additive effect on muscle atrophy, characterized by loss of muscle mass and decrease in muscle strength in both fast (PL) and slow (SL) twitch muscles. Of the two, disuse appeared to be the dominant factor for continuous muscle wasting after acute burn in this model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e243-e251
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • hindlimb unloading
  • muscle function
  • skeletal muscle
  • thermal injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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