In this article we discuss the role of capillary fluid absorption via Starling mechanisms (the transcapillary hydrostatic pressure gradient opposed by the colloid osmotic pressure gradient as multiplied by the capillary UF coefficient) vs. lymphatic fluid absorption as determinants of the total fluid loss from the peritoneal cavity during continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD). We also mention that, under nonsteady state conditions, there is in addition some net absorption of fluid into the interstitium of tissues surrounding the peritoneal cavity. Support for the contention that nonlymphatic fluid absorption directly into the capillaries is the major mode of fluid transport from the peritoneal cavity to the blood is given by measurements of the peritoneal-to-blood clearance of tracer albumin (or other proteins). Such measurements yield clearance values of the order of 0.2-0.3 ml/min in CAPD. This represents only about 20% of the total peritoneal fluid loss rate (1.2-1.3 ml/min) in ordinary CAPD dwells. Indirect support for a relatively low lymph flow is also derived from capillary physiology. Like continuous capillary walls, the peritoneal membrane shows a bimodal selectivity towards molecules of graded molecular size. Thus, small solute transport can be described as occurring by diffusion through numerous ‘small’ (∼ 50 Å radius) pores, whereas large solute transport is consistent with blood-peritoneal convection through smaller numbers of’large’ (radius ∼ 250 A) pores. Furthermore, peritoneal sieving data are compatible with the notion that large crystalloid osmotic pressure gradients cause fluid flow through a water-exclusive (‘ultra-small’ pore) pathway. A three-pore model of peritoneal selectivity can explain why small solute sieving coefficients are only 0.5-0.6, even though small solute reflection coefficients are close to zero. Another important implication of the three-pore concept is that the peritoneal UF- coefficient is much higher than previously thought, emphasizing the role of capillary absorption in the fluid loss from the peritoneal cavity in CAPD. It is concluded that fluid loss from the peritoneal cavity is dominated by capillary fluid absorption. Hence, lymphatic absorption accounts for just a small fraction of the peritoneal-to-blood absorption of fluid in peritoneal dialysis.

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