Objectives: The cell-free layer between the erythrocyte column and the vessel wall is an important determinant of hydrodynamic resistance in microcirculatory vessels. The authors report a method for continuous measurement of the width of this layer.
Methods: The light intensity of a linear array of pixels perpendicular to the vessel axis is continuously determined from a video image of a microcirculatory vessel. A threshold level based on Otsu's method is used to establish the interface between the cell-free layer and the erythrocyte column. To test the method, video images at 750-4500 frames/s were obtained from venules and arterioles in rat spinotrapezius muscle at normal and reduced arterial pressures before and after induction of erythrocyte aggregation with Dextran 500. The current measurements were compared to manual measurements of the same images.
Results: Values obtained by the manual and the new methods were in agreement within the 95% confidence limit by the Bland-Altman analysis and within 90-95% range by the correlation coefficient (R2). The more frequent measurements reveal substantial, rapid variations in cell-free layer width and changes in mean values with alteration of arterial pressure and red cell aggregability.
Conclusions: A new, computer-based technique has been developed that provides measurements of rapid, time-dependent variations in the width of the cell-free layer in the microcirculation.