Dispersion in porous media in oscillatory flow between flat plates: applications to intrathecal, periarterial and paraarterial solute transport in the central nervous system

Fluids Barriers CNS. 2019 May 6;16(1):13. doi: 10.1186/s12987-019-0132-y.


Background: As an alternative to advection, solute transport by shear-augmented dispersion within oscillatory cerebrospinal fluid flow was investigated in small channels representing the basement membranes located between cerebral arterial smooth muscle cells, the paraarterial space surrounding the vessel wall and in large channels modeling the spinal subarachnoid space (SSS).

Methods: Geometries were modeled as two-dimensional. Fully developed flows in the channels were modeled by the Darcy-Brinkman momentum equation and dispersion by the passive transport equation. Scaling of the enhancement of axial dispersion relative to molecular diffusion was developed for regimes of flow including quasi-steady, porous and unsteady, and for regimes of dispersion including diffusive and unsteady.

Results: Maximum enhancement occurs when the characteristic time for lateral dispersion is matched to the cycle period. The Darcy-Brinkman model represents the porous media as a continuous flow resistance, and also imposes no-slip boundary conditions at the walls of the channel. Consequently, predicted dispersion is always reduced relative to that of a channel without porous media, except when the flow and dispersion are both unsteady.

Discussion/conclusions: In the basement membranes, flow and dispersion are both quasi-steady and enhancement of dispersion is small even if lateral dispersion is reduced by the porous media to achieve maximum enhancement. In the paraarterial space, maximum enhancement Rmax = 73,200 has the potential to be significant. In the SSS, the dispersion is unsteady and the flow is in the transition zone between porous and unsteady. Enhancement is 5.8 times that of molecular diffusion, and grows to a maximum of 1.6E+6 when lateral dispersion is increased. The maximum enhancement produces rostral transport time in agreement with experiments.

Keywords: Cerebrospinal fluid; Glymphatic system; Paravascular flow; Paravenous flow; Perivascular flow; Spinal subarachnoid space.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism
  • Diffusion / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Injections, Spinal
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Porosity / drug effects
  • Solutions / administration & dosage*
  • Solutions / metabolism*
  • Subarachnoid Space / drug effects*
  • Subarachnoid Space / metabolism*


  • Solutions