The Flow of Sickle-Cell Blood in the Capillaries

Published in: Biophysical Journal, v. 21, no. 1, Jan. 1980, p. 119-148

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 1979

by Stanley A. Berger, William D. King

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Oxygen tension levels and red cell velocities for the flow of sickle-cell blood in the capillaries are determined by using the Krogh model for oxygen transport and lubrication theory for the cell motion. The coupling and interaction between these arises from the red cell compliance, which is assumed to vary with the oxygen concentration. Microsieving data is used to establish an upper bound for this relationship. Calculations are carried out for a range of capillary sizes, taking into account the rightward shift of the oxyhemoglobin dissociation curve and the reduced hematocrit of sickle-cell blood, and are compared to, as a base case, the flow of normal blood under normal pressure gradient. The results indicate that under normal pressure gradients the oxygen tensions and cell velocities for sickle blood are considerably higher than for normal blood, thus acting against the tendency for cells to sickle, or significantly change their rheological properties, in the capillaries. Under reduced pressure gradients, however, the concentrations and velocities drop dramatically, adding to the likelihood of such shape or flow property changes.

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