Handheld Tissue Hardness Meters for Assessing the Mechanical Properties of Skeletal Muscle: A Feasibility Study

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Abstract

Objectives

The purpose of this study was to examine the feasibility of using handheld tissue hardness meters to assess the mechanical properties of skeletal muscle.

Methods

This observational study included 33 healthy men (age, 22.4 ± 4.4 years) and 33 healthy women (age, 23.7 ± 4.2 years). Participants were placed in a supine position, and tissue hardness overlying the rectus femoris and the shear modulus of the muscle were measured on the right side of the body at 50% thigh length. In the same position, subcutaneous adipose tissue thickness and muscle thickness were measured using B-mode ultrasonography. To examine the associations of subcutaneous adipose tissue thickness, muscle thickness, and muscle shear modulus with tissue hardness, linear regression using a stepwise bidirectional elimination approach was performed.

Results

Stepwise linear regression revealed that subcutaneous adipose tissue thickness (r = −0.38, P = .002) and muscle shear modulus (r = 0.27, P = .03) were significantly associated with tissue hardness.

Conclusions

Significant associations among adipose tissue thickness, muscle shear modulus, and tissue hardness show the limitations and feasibility of handheld tissue hardness meters for assessing the mechanical properties of skeletal muscles.

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