Blood viscosity in microvessels: experiment and theory

C R Phys. 2013 Jun;14(6):470-478. doi: 10.1016/j.crhy.2013.04.002.


The apparent viscosity of blood flowing through narrow glass tubes decreases strongly with decreasing tube diameter over the range from about 300 μm to about 10 μm. This phenomenon, known as the Fåhraeus-Lindqvist effect, occurs because blood is a concentrated suspension of deformable red blood cells with a typical dimension of about 8 μm. Most of the resistance to blood flow through the circulatory system resides in microvessels with diameters in this range. Apparent viscosity of blood in microvessels in vivo has been found to be significantly higher than in glass tubes with corresponding diameters. Here we review experimental observations of blood's apparent viscosity in vitro and in vivo, and progress towards a quantitative theoretical understanding of the mechanisms involved.

Keywords: capillary; microcirculation; red blood cell; rheology.