Musculotendon adaptations and preservation of spinal reflex pathways following agonist-to-antagonist tendon transfer

Mark A. Lyle*, T. Richard Nichols, Elma Kajtaz, Huub Maas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Tendon transfer surgeries are performed to restore lost motor function, but outcomes are variable, particularly those involving agonist-to-antagonist muscles. Here, we evaluated the possibility that lack of proprioceptive feedback reorganization and musculotendon adaptations could influence outcomes. Plantaris-to-tibialis anterior tendon transfer along with resection of the distal third of the tibialis anterior muscle belly was performed in eight cats. Four cats had concurrent transection of the deep peroneal nerve. After 15–20 weeks, intermuscular length and force-dependent sensory feedback were examined between hindlimb muscles, and the integrity of the tendon-to-tendon connection and musculotendon adaptations were evaluated. Three of the transferred tendons tore. A common finding was the formation of new tendinous connections, which often inserted near the original location of insertion on the skeleton (e.g., connections from plantaris toward calcaneus and from tibialis anterior toward first metatarsal). The newly formed tissue connections are expected to compromise the mechanical action of the transferred muscle. We found no evidence of changes in intermuscular reflexes between transferred plantaris muscle and synergists/antagonists whether the tendon-to-tendon connection remained intact or tore, indicating no spinal reflex reorganization. We propose the lack of spinal reflex reorganization could contribute the transferred muscle not adopting the activation patterns of the host muscle. Taken together, these findings suggest that musculotendon plasticity and lack of spinal reflex circuitry reorganization could limit functional outcomes after tendon transfer surgery. Surgical planning and outcomes assessments after tendon transfer surgery should consider potential consequences of the transferred muscle's intermuscular spinal circuit actions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13201
JournalPhysiological Reports
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


  • Proprioceptive feedback
  • regeneration
  • skeletal muscle
  • spinal reflex
  • tendon transfer


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