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pQCT- and Ultrasound-based Muscle and Fat Estimate Errors after Resistance Exercise


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: May 2019 - Volume 51 - Issue 5 - p 1022–1031
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001873

Purpose Resistance exercise increases blood flow, induces osmotic and hydrostatic fluid shifts during and immediately after exercise, and may trigger inflammatory responses for several days in the working muscle. The resultant muscle swelling can subsequently affect muscle size and quality assessments. However, the effects of muscle swelling on x-ray attenuation of adipose estimate errors are unknown.

Methods Peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT) and ultrasonography were used to assess muscle and adipose tissue properties of both upper arms before, 24, 48, and 72 h after unilateral resistance exercise. Recreationally active participants (n = 17) completed the exercise while their contralateral limb served as a control.

Results Resistance exercise resulted in a significant increase in pQCT-derived muscle cross-sectional area (includes intermuscular adipose tissue [IMAT] area), muscle area (excludes IMAT area) and IMAT area, and ultrasound-derived muscle thickness at 24, 48, and 72 h. A significant decrease in pQCT-derived muscle density was also detected as well as an increase in ultrasound-derived echo intensity at 48 and 72 h. The changes in muscle area, IMAT area, and muscle density were significantly correlated with changes in echo intensity, whereas the changes in muscle cross-sectional area and IMAT area were significantly correlated with changes in muscle thickness.

Conclusion Unaccustomed resistance exercise can cause errors in pQCT- and ultrasound-based muscle and adipose estimates for at least 72 h. These errors are the result of muscle swelling likely caused by muscle blood flow and inflammation-dependent fluid shifts in muscle. These findings may have implications for measurements in other inflammatory conditions.

Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research, Edith Cowan University, AUSTRALIA

Address for correspondence: Grant S. Rowe, Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research (CESSR), School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, 270 Joondalup Drive, Joondalup, Perth, WA 6027, Australia; E-mail:

Submitted for publication July 2018.

Accepted for publication December 2018.

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© 2019 American College of Sports Medicine