Mechanics of blood flow in the microcirculation
The microcirculation is an extensive network of microvessels that distributes blood flow throughout living tissues. Reynolds numbers are much less than 1, and the equations of Stokes flow apply. Blood is a suspension of cells with dimensions comparable to microvessel diameters. Highly deformable red blood cells, which transport oxygen, have a volume concentration (hematocrit) of 40 to 45% in humans. In the narrowest capillaries, these cells move in single file with a surrounding lubricating layer of plasma. In larger vessels, the red blood cells migrate toward the centerline, reducing the resistance to blood flow. I will discuss these physiologically important phenomena from a fluid mechanical perspective.