Assessment of the Electrophysiological Properties of the Muscle Fibers of a Transplanted Hand

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The muscle fibers in a transplanted hand remain denervated for a long period of time after the transplant. This prolonged inactivity may change the electrophysiological membrane properties of muscle fibers, as observed in long-term denervation. We investigated whether electrophysiological properties of the muscle fibers are preserved in a transplanted hand even after several months of denervation. Specifically, we assessed the dependence of muscle fiber conduction velocity (CV) on discharge rate in motor units of the abductor digiti minimi muscle.


Surface electromyography signals were recorded from the transplanted hand of a patient who was 35 years of age at the time of the transplant. In each of 11 experimental sessions performed over a period of 23 months after the transplant, the subject was asked to linearly increase the activation or to maintain a maximum activation of the abductor digiti minimi muscle for 60 sec. Individual motor unit action potentials were identified from the electromyography recordings and muscle fiber CV was estimated for each action potential as a function of the time interval separating the action potential from the preceding discharge (interspike interval [ISI]).


The baseline (ISI >1000 msec) CV was 3.8±0.3 m/sec. CV decreased monotonically with increasing ISI (R2=0.95). For ISI in the range 0 to 10 msec, muscle fiber CV was 24.9%±16.3% higher than the baseline value (P<0.05).


The results indicate that in the investigated muscle, the baseline value of CV and its dependency on discharge rate were similar as in able-bodied individuals, despite a period of several months of denervation.

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