Conhaim, R. L., K. E. Watson, D. M. Heisey, G. E. Leverson and B. A. Harms. Perfusion heterogeneity in rat lungs assessed from the distribution of 4-microm-diameter latex particles. J Appl Physiol. 94:420-8, 2003.
Pulmonary vascular perfusion has been shown to follow a fractal distribution down to a resolution of 0.5 cm(3) (5E11 microm(3)). We wanted to know whether this distribution continued down to tissue volumes equivalent to that of an alveolus (2E5 microm(3)). To investigate this, we used confocal microscopy to analyze the spatial distribution of 4-microm-diameter fluorescent latex particles trapped within rat lung microvessels. Particle distributions were analyzed in tissue volumes that ranged from 1.7E2 to 2.8E8 microm(3). The analysis resulted in fractal plots that consisted of two slopes. The left slope, encompassing tissue volumes less than 7E5 microm(3), had a fractal dimension of 1.50 +/- 0.03 (random distribution). The right slope, encompassing tissue volumes greater than 7E5 microm(3), had a fractal dimension of 1.29 +/- 0.04 (nonrandom distribution). The break point at 7E5 microm(3) corresponds closely to a tissue volume equivalent to that of one alveolus. We conclude that perfusion distribution is random at tissue volumes less than that of an alveolus and nonrandom at tissue volumes greater than that of an alveolus.