In dynamic cardiomyoplasty and other forms of musclepowered cardiac assist, the stretch that should be applied to the skeletal muscle to obtain optimal resting tension remains unclear. To test the hypothesis that skeletal muscle is capable of conformational adaptation over time, the effect of altered resting tension on the chronic performance of a skeletal muscle ventricle was studied. In 7 mongrel dogs, skeletal muscle ventricles constructed from the latissimus dorsi muscle were stimulated to contract for 12 weeks against an implantable mock circulation. The preload pressure was altered, thereby varying the resting tension of the latissimus dorsi. One group (group I; n = 5) was maintained at a preload of 80 mm Hg, whereas a second group (group II; n = 2) was maintained at 20 mm Hg. Adaptation to preload was observed. After 12 weeks, the pressure increase generated by the skeletal muscle ventricle at a preload of 20 mm Hg was only 35 ± 2 mm Hg for group I compared with 44 ± 5 mm Hg for group II. At a preload of 80 mm Hg, the pressure increase was 61 ± 4 mm Hg for group I and only 34 ± 6 mm Hg for group II. Adaptation of the latissimus dorsi to a new resting tension has important implications in the use of skeletal muscle for cardiac assist. Stretching the latissimus dorsi to its in situ length during cardiomyoplasty is not required for future muscle performance to be optimal.
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