Extramuscular connective tissue and muscular fascia have been suggested to form a myo-fascial pathway for transmission of forces over a joint that is additional to the generally accepted myo-tendinous pathway. The consequences of myo-fascial force transmission for the outcome of conventional muscle tendon transfer surgery has not been studied as yet. To test the hypothesis that surgical dissection of a muscle will affect its length-force characteristics, a study was undertaken in adult male Wistar rats. During progressive dissection of the flexor carpi ulnaris muscle, isometric length-force characteristics were measured using maximal electrical stimulation of the ulnar nerve. After fasciotomy, muscle active force decreased by approximately 20%. Further dissection resulted in additional decline of muscle active force by another 40% at maximal dissection. The muscle length at which the muscle produced maximum active force increased by approximately 0.7 mm (i.e. 14% of the measured length range) after dissection. It is concluded that, in rats, the fascia surrounding the flexor carpi ulnaris muscle is a major determinant of muscle length-force characteristics. © 2002 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.