Capillaries within compartments: microvascular interpretation of dynamic positron emission tomography data

J Theor Biol. 2003 Nov 7;225(1):127-41. doi: 10.1016/s0022-5193(03)00227-3.


Measurement of exchange of substances between blood and tissue has been a long-lasting challenge to physiologists, and considerable theoretical and experimental accomplishments were achieved before the development of the positron emission tomography (PET). Today, when modeling data from modern PET scanners, little use is made of earlier microvascular research in the compartmental models, which have become the standard model by which the vast majority of dynamic PET data are analysed. However, modern PET scanners provide data with a sufficient temporal resolution and good counting statistics to allow estimation of parameters in models with more physiological realism. We explore the standard compartmental model and find that incorporation of blood flow leads to paradoxes, such as kinetic rate constants being time-dependent, and tracers being cleared from a capillary faster than they can be supplied by blood flow. The inability of the standard model to incorporate blood flow consequently raises a need for models that include more physiology, and we develop microvascular models which remove the inconsistencies. The microvascular models can be regarded as a revision of the input function. Whereas the standard model uses the organ inlet concentration as the concentration throughout the vascular compartment, we consider models that make use of spatial averaging of the concentrations in the capillary volume, which is what the PET scanner actually registers. The microvascular models are developed for both single- and multi-capillary systems and include effects of non-exchanging vessels. They are suitable for analysing dynamic PET data from any capillary bed using either intravascular or diffusible tracers, in terms of physiological parameters which include regional blood flow.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Capillaries / anatomy & histology
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Carbon Radioisotopes / pharmacokinetics*
  • Diffusion
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Models, Cardiovascular*
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / pharmacokinetics*
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*


  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Carbon Monoxide