Human Muscle Length-Dependent Changes in Blood Flow

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Skeletal muscle, hyperemia


Although a multitude of factors that influence skeletal muscle blood flow have been extensively investigated, the influence of muscle length on limb blood flow has received little attention. Thus the purpose of this investigation was to determine if cyclic changes in muscle length influence resting blood flow. Nine healthy men (28 ± 4 yr of age) underwent a passive knee extension protocol during which the subjects' knee joint was passively extended and flexed through 100-180° knee joint angle at a rate of 1 cycle per 30 s. Femoral blood flow, cardiac output (CO), heart rate (HR), stroke volume (SV), and mean arterial pressure (MAP) were continuously recorded during the entire protocol. These measurements revealed that slow passive changes in knee joint angle did not have a significant influence on HR, SV, MAP, or CO; however, net femoral blood flow demonstrated a curvilinear increase with knee joint angle (r(2) = 0.98) such that blood flow increased by ∼90% (125 ml/min) across the 80° range of motion. This net change in blood flow was due to a constant antegrade blood flow across knee joint angle and negative relationship between retrograde blood flow and knee joint angle (r(2) = 0.98). Thus, despite the absence of central hemodynamic changes and local metabolic factors, blood flow to the leg was altered by changes in muscle length. Therefore, when designing research protocols, researchers need to be cognizant of the fact that joint angle, and ultimately muscle length, influence limb blood flow.

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Journal of Applied Physiology