Fast- (peroneal) and slow-twitch (soleus) skeletal muscles of anesthetized Wistar rats were subjected to 3 h of tourniquet ischemia. The intramuscular temperature of the leg was adjusted to 22, 30 or 35°C (n = 12 per group) during ischemia. After 2 h of reperfusion, the muscles were electrically stimulated in vitro and muscular function was analyzed for maximal force, performance, contractility and fatigue. Contralateral nonischemic muscles served as controls. Three hours of ischemia at 30°C did not reduce the function of the peroneal muscles compared to nonischemic controls. The same ischemic stress significantly reduced the function of the soleus muscles compared to nonischemic controls. The postischemic function of the soleus muscles declined with increasing temperature. The postischemic function of the 35°C group of peroneal muscles was significantly reduced compared to the 22 and the 30°C groups, which did not differ. These results provide evidence that fast-twitch muscles are more resistant to ischemia than slow-twitch muscles. They furthermore show a fiber type-specific dependency of postischemic muscle function on intramuscular temperature during ischemia. Hypothermia-sensitive fast-twitch fibers predominate in the skeletal muscles of the extremities. Mild hypothermia could, therefore, reduce tourniquet ischemia-induced injury after surgery of the extremities.

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