A rat model was used to distinguish between the different factors that contribute to muscle tissue damage related to deep pressure ulcers that develop after compressive loading. The separate and combined effects of ischemia and deformation were studied. Loading was applied to the hindlimb of rats for 2 h. Muscle tissue was examined using MR imaging (MRI) and histology. An MR-compatible loading device allowed simultaneous loading and measurement of tissue status. Two separate loading protocols incorporated uniaxial loading, resulting in tissue compression and ischemic loading. Uniaxial loading was applied to the tibialis anterior by means of an indenter, and ischemic loading was accomplished with an inflatable tourniquet. Deformation of the muscle tissue during uniaxial loading was measured using MR tagging. Compression of the tissues for 2 h led to increased T2 values, which were correlated to necrotic regions in the tibialis anterior. Perfusion measurements, by means of contrast-enhanced MRI, indicated a large ischemic region during indentation. Pure ischemic loading for 2 h led to reversible tissue changes. From the MR-tagging experiments, local strain fields were calculated. A 4.5-mm deformation, corresponding to a surface pressure of 150 kPa, resulted in maximum shear strain up to 1.0. There was a good correlation between the location of damage and the location of high shear strain. It was concluded that the large deformations, in conjunction with ischemia, provided the main trigger for irreversible muscle damage. <br/
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