Effects of impaired microvascular flow regulation on metabolism-perfusion matching and organ function

Tuhin K. Roy, Timothy W. Secomb

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Impaired tissue oxygen delivery is a major cause of organ damage and failure in critically ill patients, which can occur even when systemic parameters, including cardiac output and arterial hemoglobin saturation, are close to normal. This review addresses oxygen transport mechanisms at the microcirculatory scale, and how hypoxia may occur in spite of adequate convective oxygen supply. The structure of the microcirculation is intrinsically heterogeneous, with wide variations in vessel diameters and flow pathway lengths, and consequently also in blood flow rates and oxygen levels. The dynamic processes of structural adaptation and flow regulation continually adjust microvessel diameters to compensate for heterogeneity, redistributing flow according to metabolic needs to ensure adequate tissue oxygenation. A key role in flow regulation is played by conducted responses, which are generated and propagated by endothelial cells and signal upstream arterioles to dilate in response to local hypoxia. Several pathophysiological conditions can impair local flow regulation, causing hypoxia and tissue damage leading to organ failure. Therapeutic measures targeted to systemic parameters may not address or may even worsen tissue oxygenation at the microvascular level. Restoration of tissue oxygenation in critically ill patients may depend on restoration of endothelial cell function, including conducted responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12673
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • conducted responses
  • critical illness
  • heterogeneity
  • microvascular networks
  • oxygen transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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