A theoretical analysis of blood flow in the microcirculation of skeletal muscle is provided. The flow in the microvessels of this organ is quasi steady and has a very low Reynolds number. The blood is non-Newtonian and the blood vessels are distensible with viscoelastic properties. A formulation of the problem is provided using a viscoelastic model for the vessel wall which was recently derived from measurements in the rat spinotrapezius muscle (Skalak and Schmid-Scho¨nbein, 1986b). Closed form solutions are derived for several physiologically important cases, such as perfusion at steady state, transient and oscillatory flows. The results show that resting skeletal muscle has, over a wide range of perfusion pressures an almost linear pressure-flow curve. At low flow it exhibits nonlinearities. Vessel distensibility and the non-Newtonian properties of blood both have a strong influence on the shape of the pressure-flow curve. During oscillatory flow the muscle exhibits hysteresis. The theoretical results are in qualitative agreement with experimental observations.

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