Korean Circ J.  2011 Jun;41(6):287-295. 10.4070/kcj.2011.41.6.287.

Hemorheology and Microvascular Disorders

  • 1Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics, Drexel University Philadelphia, PA, USA. choyi@drexel.edu
  • 2Rheovector LLC, Pennsauken, NJ, USA.


The present review presents basic concepts of blood rheology related to vascular diseases. Blood flow in large arteries is dominated by inertial forces exhibited at high flow velocities, while viscous forces (i.e., blood rheology) play an almost negligible role. When high flow velocity is compromised by sudden deceleration as at a bifurcation, endothelial cell dysfunction can occur along the outer wall of the bifurcation, initiating inflammatory gene expression and, through mechanotransduction, the cascade of events associated with atherosclerosis. In sharp contrast, the flow of blood in microvessels is dominated by viscous shear forces since the inertial forces are negligible due to low flow velocities. Shear stress is a critical parameter in microvascular flow, and a force-balance approach is proposed for determining microvascular shear stress, accounting for the low Reynolds numbers and the dominance of viscous forces over inertial forces. Accordingly, when the attractive forces between erythrocytes (represented by the yield stress of blood) are greater than the shear force produced by microvascular flow, tissue perfusion itself cannot be sustained, leading to capillary loss. The yield stress parameter is presented as a diagnostic candidate for future clinical research, specifically, as a fluid dynamic biomarker for microvascular disorders. The relation between the yield stress and diastolic blood viscosity (DBV) is described using the Casson model for viscosity, from which one may be able determine thresholds of DBV where the risk of microvascular disorders is high.


Blood viscosity; Hemorheology; Angina, microvascular
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