Stimulation-induced damage in rabbit fast-twitch skeletal muscles: a quantitative morphological study of the influence of pattern and frequency

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The aim of this study was to determine whether muscle fibre degeneration brought about by chronic low-frequency electrical stimulation was related to the pattern and frequency of stimulation. Rabbit fast-twitch muscles, tibialis anterior and extensor digitorum longus, were stimulated for 9 days with pulse trains ranging in frequency from 1.25 Hz to 10 Hz. Histological data from these muscles were analysed with multivariate statistical techniques. At the lower stimulation frequencies there was a significantly lower incidence of degenerating muscle fibres. Fibres that reacted positively with an antineonatal antibody were most numerous in the sections that revealed the most degeneration. The dependence on frequency was generally similar for the two muscles, but the extensor digitorum longus muscles showed more degeneration than the tibialis anterior at every frequency. Muscles subjected to 10 Hz intermittent stimulation showed significantly less degeneration than muscles stimulated with 5 Hz continuously, although the aggregate number of impulses delivered was the same. The incidence of degeneration in the extensor digitorum longus muscles stimulated at 1.25 Hz was indistinguishable from that in control, unstimulated muscles; for the tibialis anterior muscles, this was also true for stimulation at 2.5 Hz. We conclude that damage is not an inevitable consequence of electrical stimulation. The influence of pattern and frequency on damage should be taken into account when devising neuromuscular stimulation regimes for clinical use.


  • Jan Lexell
  • Jonathan Jarvis
  • David Downham
  • Stanley Salmons
External organisations
  • External Organization - Unknown
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cell Biology


  • Muscle, Histochemistry, Degeneration, Morphometry, Immuno-histochemistry, Stimulation, chronic, Rabbit
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-362
JournalCell and Tissue Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1993
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes