Research Article

Cerebral blood flow and blood viscosity in patients with polycythaemia secondary to hypoxic lung disease.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1981; 283 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.283.6293.689 (Published 12 September 1981) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1981;283:689
  1. J P Wade,
  2. T C Pearson,
  3. R W Russell,
  4. G Wetherley-Mein

    Abstract

    Blood viscosity, cerebral blood flow (CBF) and cerebral oxygen carriage (CBF X arterial oxygen content) were measured in 12 patients with polycythaemia secondary to hypoxic lung disease. CBF and cerebral oxygen carriage were both significantly higher than in a comparative group of 20 patients with raised packed cell volumes and normal lung function. The patients with secondary polycythaemia then underwent venesection and their mean packed cell volume fell from 0.613 to 0.495. This led to a consistent reduction in blood viscosity, which fell by 44% at a low shear rate (0.67/s) and 33% at a high shear rate (0.91/s). CBF rose by 21% (p less than 0.01), but cerebral oxygen carriage did not significantly increase in the group as a whole. Four of the patients with secondary polycythaemia had complained of episodes of confusion before venesection, which improved considerably once the packed cell volume had been lowered. Headache was relieved in a further two patients and none of the subjects was adversely affected by venesection. It was not possible, however, to show a correlation between symptomatic improvement and an increase in cerebral oxygen carriage.