Standard Article

Determinants of Pulmonary Blood Flow Distribution

  1. Robb W. Glenny,
  2. H. Thomas Robertson

Published Online: 1 NOV 2010

DOI: 10.1002/cphy.c090002

Comprehensive Physiology

Comprehensive Physiology

How to Cite

Glenny, R. W. and Robertson, H. T. 2010. Determinants of Pulmonary Blood Flow Distribution. Comprehensive Physiology. 1:39–59.

Author Information

  1. Departments of Medicine and of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Washington, Seattle

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 NOV 2010


The primary function of the pulmonary circulation is to deliver blood to the alveolar capillaries to exchange gases. Distributing blood over a vast surface area facilitates gas exchange, yet the pulmonary vascular tree must be constrained to fit within the thoracic cavity. In addition, pressures must remain low within the circulatory system to protect the thin alveolar capillary membranes that allow efficient gas exchange. The pulmonary circulation is engineered for these unique requirements and in turn these special attributes affect the spatial distribution of blood flow. As the largest organ in the body, the physical characteristics of the lung vary regionally, influencing the spatial distribution on large-, moderate-, and small-scale levels. © 2011 American Physiological Society. Compr Physiol 1:39-59, 2011..