Optimal hematocrit in an artificial microvascular network
Piety, Nathaniel Z.
Reinhart, Walter H.
Shevkoplyas, Sergey S.
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BACKGROUND Higher hematocrit increases the oxygen?carrying capacity of blood but also increases blood viscosity, thus decreasing blood flow through the microvasculature and reducing the oxygen delivery to tissues. Therefore, an optimal value of hematocrit that maximizes tissue oxygenation must exist. STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS We used viscometry and an artificial microvascular network device to determine the optimal hematocrit in vitro. Suspensions of fresh red blood cells (RBCs) in plasma, normal saline, or a protein?containing buffer and suspensions of stored red blood cells (at Week 6 of standard hypothermic storage) in plasma with hematocrits ranging from 10 to 80% were evaluated. RESULTS For viscometry, optimal hematocrits were 10, 25.2, 31.9, 37.1, and 37.5% for fresh RBCs in plasma at shear rates of 3.2 or less, 11.0, 27.7, 69.5, and 128.5 inverse seconds. For the artificial microvascular network, optimal hematocrits were 51.1, 55.6, 59.2, 60.9, 62.3, and 64.6% for fresh RBCs in plasma and 46.4, 48.1, 54.8, 61.4, 65.7, and 66.5% for stored RBCs in plasma at pressures of 2.5, 5, 10, 20, 40, and 60 cm H2O. CONCLUSION Although exact optimal hematocrit values may depend on specific microvascular architecture, our results suggest that the optimal hematocrit for oxygen delivery in the microvasculature depends on perfusion pressure. Therefore, anemia in chronic disorders may represent a beneficial physiological response to reduced perfusion pressure resulting from decreased heart function and/or vascular stenosis. Our results may help explain why a therapeutically increasing hematocrit in such conditions with RBC transfusion frequently leads to worse clinical outcomes.