Flow of axisymmetric red blood cells in narrow capillaries

T. W. Secomb, N. Ozkaya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

178 Scopus citations


Flow of red blood cells along narrow cylindrical vessels, with inside diameters up to 8 μm, is modelled theoretically. Axisymmetric cell shapes are assumed, and lubrication theory is used to describe the flow of the suspending fluid in the gaps between the cells and the vessel wall. The models take into account the elastic properties of the red blood cell membrane, including its responses to shear and bending. At moderate or high cell velocities, about 1 mm/s or more, the membrane stress may be approximated by an isotropic tension which is maximal at the nose of the cell and falls to zero at the rear. Cell shape and apparent viscosity are then independent of flow rate. At lower flow velocities, membrane shear and bending stresses become increasingly important, and models are developed to take these into account. Apparent viscosity is shown to increase with decreasing flow rate, in agreement with previous experimental and theoretical studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)405-423
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Feb 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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