Do intramuscular temperature and fascicle angle affect ultrasound echo intensity values?
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Centre for Human Performance / School of Medical and Health Sciences
Purpose: Ultrasound-derived echo intensity (EI) has been used as a physiological marker for changes in skeletal muscle "quality"with physical training, disuse, aging, and neuromuscular disorders. However, the methodological and physiological factors influencing EI and its longitudinal change are still unclear. Here, we performed two separate experiments to investigate the effects of muscle temperature and fascicle angle, which are known to influence muscle tissue and sound wave properties and therefore affect EI. Methods: In experiment 1 (n = 16, 28.0 ± 6.6 yr), vastus lateralis (VL) ultrasonographic images were acquired and intramuscular temperature continuously recorded for 15 min after 20 min of heating to 40.4°C ± 0.7°C using a microwave device. In experiment 2 (n = 17, 30.2 ± 9.8 yr), VL sonographic images were obtained with the knee both fully extended (0°) and flexed to 90° and EI and fascicle angle measured post hoc. Fascicle movement was tracked during the passive knee flexion to ensure that sonographic images were obtained at the same muscle region. Knee flexion reduced muscle thickness, and we therefore reran analyses calculating EI using identical dimensions to minimize this effect. Results: EI decreased only immediately after the passive heating, and although a moderate, negative correlation was observed between EI and temperature (rrm = -0.36), the effect of muscle temperature was small (β = 0.97 (-1.89 to -0.06) per degree Celsius, P = 0.051). Nonetheless, EI increased as fascicle angle decreased, and a large, negative correlation (rrm = -0.85) was observed; the effect of fascicle angle on EI was large (β = 3.0 (-3.8 to -2.2) per degree, P < 0.01), and this was maintained when analyses were performed at a constant depth of the region of interest (β = 3.5 (-4.4 to -2.7) per degree, P < 0.01). Conclusions: These findings support the hypothesis that fascicle angle meaningfully affects VL EI but provides weak evidence of a temperature effect in vivo. Thus, acute fascicle angle alterations should be accounted for in studies using EI measurements, and longer-term studies should consider whether changes in EI might be partly explained by a change in fascicle angle.