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Effects of Dextran-40 on Blood Viscosity in Experimental Macroglobulinaemia

A Corrigendum to this article was published on 03 August 1968


BLOOD viscosity may be raised in many diseases. This rise may compromise the perfusion and nutrition of organs throughout the body1–3; therefore there is great interest in any agent capable of reducing blood viscosity. Dextran-40 has been thought to be unique in performing this function3–7, but since its introduction as a plasma expander it has been the object of controversy because of conflicting reports about both its actual effect on viscosity and its mode of action2,3,7–14. Solutions of this type of dextran, with an average molecular weight of 40,000 (also known as low molecular weight dextran8, low viscosity dextran4,5 and ‘Rheomacrodex’6), were said to reduce blood viscosity by inhibiting or reversing the formation of erythrocyte (RBC) aggregates1–7 the presence of which is thought to contribute to the elevated viscosity levels found in pathological states1,2. The evaluation of dextran-40 is complicated, however, by the multiplicity of its effects, and particularly by its ability to expand the volume of plasma and reduce the haematocrit, alterations which in themselves lower blood viscosity1,2,3,4,6–8. Indeed, many investigators have concluded that all the beneficial effects of dextran-40 can be ascribed to blood dilution8,10–14, and evidence has appeared showing that this agent, like dextrans of higher molecular weight, will actually increase blood viscosity if the haematocrit is not permitted to fall3,10,12,15. Nevertheless, some workers still feel that infusions of dextran-40 are of special value in the treatment of hyperviscous states, and that the beneficial effects of this agent are mediated, at least in part, through the dissolution of RBC aggregates7.

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ROSENBLUM, W. Effects of Dextran-40 on Blood Viscosity in Experimental Macroglobulinaemia. Nature 218, 591–593 (1968).

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