A model for red blood cell motion in glycocalyx-lined capillaries

T. W. Secomb, R. Hsu, A. R. Pries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Scopus citations


The interior surfaces of capillaries are lined with a layer (glycocalyx) of macromolecules bound or adsorbed to the endothelium. Here, a theoretical model is used to analyze the effects of the glycocalyx on hematocrit and resistance to blood flow in capillaries. The glycocalyx is represented as a porous layer that resists penetration by red blood cells. Axisymmetric red blood cell shapes are assumed, and effects of cell membrane shear elasticity are included. Lubrication theory is used to compute the flow of plasma around the cell and within the glycocalyx. The effects of the glycocalyx on tube hematocrit (Fahraeus effect) and on flow resistance are predicted as functions of the width and hydraulic resistivity of the layer. A layer of width 1 μm and resistivity 108 dyn · s/cm4 leads to a relative apparent viscosity of ~10 in a 6-μm capillary at discharge hematocrit 45% and flow velocity of ~1 mm/s. This is consistent with experimental observations of increased flow resistance in microvessels in vivo, relative to glass tubes with the same diameters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H1016-H1022
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number3 43-3
StatePublished - Mar 1998


  • Apparent viscosity
  • Blood flow resistance
  • Fahraeus effect
  • Hematocrit
  • Microvessels

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'A model for red blood cell motion in glycocalyx-lined capillaries'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this