"The viscosity of the blood in narrow capillary tubes" by Robin Fåhraeus and Torsten Lindqvist (Am J Physiol 96: 562-568, 1931) can be a valuable opportunity for teaching basic hemorheological principles in undergraduate cardiovascular physiology. This classic paper demonstrates that a progressive decline in apparent viscosity occurs when blood flows through glass capillary tubes of diminishing radius, which was later designated as the "Fåhraeus-Lindqvist effect." Subsequent studies have shown that apparent viscosity continues to decline at diameters that correspond to the arteriolar segments of the systemic vascular tree, where the majority of the total peripheral resistance resides and is actively regulated in vivo. The Fåhraeus-Lindqvist effect thus reduces microvascular resistance, thereby maintaining local tissue perfusion at a relatively lower blood pressure. The paper by Fåhraeus and Lindqvist can be used as a platform for a plenary discussion of these concepts as well as of the relationships among hematocrit, vessel diameter, red blood cell deformability, and resistance to blood flow and how these factors may affect the work of the heart.
Advances in Physiology Education, 2013, Vol 37, Issue 2, p. 129-33