Structure and hemodynamics of microvascular networks: Heterogeneity and correlations

A. R. Pries, T. W. Secomb, P. Gaehtgens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


The objective of this study was to quantify the heterogeneity of topological, morphological, and hemodynamic parameters in microvascular networks and to identify functionally relevant correlations among these parameters. Seven networks in the rat mesentery (383913 vessel segments per network) were examined, and measurements were made of segment generation, diameter, length, and hematocrit in all segments (n = 3,129) and of flow velocity (only in 3 networks, 1,321 segments). In addition, hematocrit, flow rate, and pressure were derived for all segments from a mathematical simulation. All parameters obtained exhibit heterogeneous distributions with coefficients of variation ranging from 0.28 (capillary diameter) to > 1.5 (volume flow and pressure gradient). Several strong correlations exist between parameters, e.g., discharge hematocrit increases with vessel diameter, and shear rate increases with intravascular pressure. Because of such correlations, the extrapolation from average values for 'typical vessels' to network properties can lead to substantial errors. For example, the mean network transit time estimated based on averaged quantities is 6.5 s, which is about 60% higher than the true value (4.08 s). Simplified models of the vascular bed may therefore be inadequate to describe functional properties of the microcirculation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H1713-H1722
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number5 38-5
StatePublished - 1995


  • hematocrit
  • pressure
  • shear rate
  • topology
  • volume flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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