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Int J Microcirc Clin Exp. 1982;1(4):409-24.

A comparison of microvascular estimates of capillary blood flow with direct measurements of total striated muscle flow.


Relations between bulk flow into skeletal muscles and microscopically observed capillary flow are compared and disagreements between the two types of data are found. Mean capillary blood velocity was computed using data from a variety of literature sources and assuming uniform distribution of flow through a parallel array of capillaries. The average ratio of measured red cell velocity to computed mean blood velocity was 4.4 +/- 1.0. This is statistically different from the measured value reported in the literature of 1.3. In the cremaster muscle, bulk flow of red cells into the tissue was not statistically different from the measured flux of single red cells through capillaries observed microscopically. The factors which contribute to this apparent agreement of mass balance are not understood, however. Capillary hematocrit is very low and the low capillary hematocrit has been explained by others by the presence of nonuniform flow distribution among the capillaries (shunts or flow heterogeneity). However, for the cremaster data sample, red cells were accounted for in observed capillary flow and red cells were distributed rather homogeneously through the capillaries. This suggests that low capillary hematocrit is the result neither of shunting of red cells around the capillaries nor of nonuniform capillary red cell flow alone. There does not appear to be any well-accepted phenomenon which will explain the findings of: 1) low apparent mean blood velocity; 2) low and variable hematocrit; and 3) apparent conservation of red cell mass. The findings can be reconciled, however, if the capillary rheology is more complex than heretofore anticipated, with a stabilized layer of plasma on the inner surface of the capillary in the order of a 1-micrometer thickness. While there is little direct evidence for such a layer at this time, data which are consistent with the possible existence of such a layer are presented.

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