Intrinsic pump-conduit behavior of lymphangions. Academic Article uri icon


  • Lymphangions, segments of lymphatic vessels bounded by valves, have characteristics of both ventricles and arteries. They can act primarily like pumps when actively transporting lymph against a pressure gradient. They also can act as conduit vessels when passively transporting lymph down a pressure gradient. This duality has implications for clinical treatment of several types of edema, since the strategy to optimize lymph flow may depend on whether it is most beneficial for lymphangions to act as pumps or conduits. To address this duality, we employed a simple computational model of a contracting lymphangion, predicted the flows at both positive and negative axial pressure gradients, and validated the results with in vitro experiments on bovine mesenteric vessels. This model illustrates that contraction increases flow for normal axial pressure gradients. With edema, limb elevation, or external compression, however, the pressure gradient might reverse, and lymph may flow passively down a pressure gradient. In such cases, the valves may be forced open during the entire contraction cycle. The vessel thus acts as a conduit, and contraction has the effect of increasing resistance to passive flow, thus inhibiting flow rather than promoting it. This analysis may explain a possible physiological benefit of the observed flow-mediated inhibition of the lymphatic pump at high flow rates.

published proceedings

  • Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol

author list (cited authors)

  • Quick, C. M., Venugopal, A. M., Gashev, A. A., Zawieja, D. C., & Stewart, R. H.

citation count

  • 87

complete list of authors

  • Quick, Christopher M||Venugopal, Arun M||Gashev, Anatoliy A||Zawieja, David C||Stewart, Randolph H

publication date

  • April 2007