Quantitative color three-dimensional computer tomography imaging of human long-term denervated muscle

Paolo Gargiulo, Helmut Kern, Ugo Carraro, Páll Ingvarsson, Sigrun Knutsdottir, Vilborg Gudmundsdóttir, Stefán Yngvason, Brynjar Vatnsdal, Thordur Helgason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVES: A new non-invasive method was developed to analyse macroscopic and microscopic structural changes of human skeletal muscle based on processing techniques of medical images, here exemplified by monitoring progression and recovery of long-term denervation by home based functional electrical stimulation. METHODS: Spiral computer tomography images and special computational tools were used to isolate the quadriceps muscles and to make three-dimensional reconstructions of denervated muscles. Shape, volume and density changes were quantitatively measured on each part of the quadriceps muscle. Changes in tissue composition within the muscle were visualized associating Hounsfield unit values of normal or atrophic muscle, fat and connective tissue to different colors. The minimal volumetric element (voxel) is approximately ten times smaller than the volume analysed by needle muscle biopsy. The results of this microstructural analysis are presented as the percentage of different tissues (muscle, loose and fibrous connective tissue, and fat) in the total volume of the rectus muscle and displaying the first cortical layer of voxels that describe the muscle epimysium directly on the muscle three-dimensional reconstruction. RESULTS: In normal and paraplegic patients, this new monitoring approach provides information on macroscopic shape, volume, and the increased adipose and fibrous tissue content within the denervated muscle. In particular, the change displayed at epimysium level is structurally important and possibly functionally relevant. Here we show that muscle restoration induced by homebased functional electrical stimulation is documented by the increase in normal muscle tissue from 45 to 60% of the whole volume, while connective tissue and fat are reduced of 30 and 50% with respect to the pre-treatment values. These changes are in agreement with the muscle biopsy findings, and self-evident when epimysium thickness is depicted. CONCLUSION: Color three-dimensional imaging of human skeletal muscle is an improved computational approach of non-invasive medical imaging able to detect not only macroscopic changes of human muscle volume and shape, but also their tissue composition at microscopic level.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNeurological Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2010

Other keywords

  • Adipose Tissue
  • Adult
  • Color
  • Connective Tissue
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Denervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Organ Size
  • Paraplegia
  • Recovery of Function
  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Syndrome
  • Tomography, Spiral Computed


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