Distribution of pulmonary capillary red blood cell transit times

R. G. Presson, J. A. Graham, C. C. Hanger, P. S. Godbey, S. A. Gebb, R. A. Sidner, R. W. Glenny, W. W. Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

37 Scopus citations


In theory, red blood cells can pass through the pulmonary capillaries too rapidly to be completely saturated with oxygen during exercise. This idea has not been directly tested because the transit times of the fastest red blood cells are unknown. We report the first measurements of the entire transit time distribution for red blood cells crossing single subpleural capillary networks of canine lung using in viva fluorescence videomicroscopy and compare those times with the distribution of plasma transit times in the same capillary networks. On average, plasma took 1.4 times longer than red blood cells to pass through the capillary bed. Decreased transit times with increased cardiac output were mitigated by both capillary recruitment and a narrowing of the transit time distribution. This design feature of the pulmonary capillary bed kept the shortest times from falling below the theoretical minimum time for complete oxygenation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)382-388
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1995


  • digital image analysis
  • fluorescently labeled red blood cells
  • indicator dilution
  • pulmonary capillary plasma transit time
  • pulmonary capillary recruitment
  • pulmonary capillary transit time
  • pulmonary microcirculation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Physiology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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    Presson, R. G., Graham, J. A., Hanger, C. C., Godbey, P. S., Gebb, S. A., Sidner, R. A., Glenny, R. W., & Wagner, W. W. (1995). Distribution of pulmonary capillary red blood cell transit times. Journal of Applied Physiology, 79(2), 382-388. https://doi.org/10.1152/jappl.1995.79.2.382