Problem: Osmosis through red blood cell walls. If water moves out of the red blood cell, it shrivels (crenation); if water moves into the red blood cell, it will swell and may burst (hemolysis).If the fluid surrounding a patient’s red blood cells is depleted in electrolytes, is crenation or hemolysis more likely to occur?

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Osmosis → movement of water (solvent) through a semi-permeable membrane from low to high solute concentration.


If fluid surrounding red blood cell is depleted in electrolytes → low concentration:

  • water moves into the red blood cell
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Problem Details

Osmosis through red blood cell walls. If water moves out of the red blood cell, it shrivels (crenation); if water moves into the red blood cell, it will swell and may burst (hemolysis).

If the fluid surrounding a patient’s red blood cells is depleted in electrolytes, is crenation or hemolysis more likely to occur?

A red blood cell in isotonic medium neither swells nor shrinks. Water molecules move in and out of the cell but there is no net movement of water and the cell maintains its typical disk shape with an indented center. Crenation of red blood cell placed in hypertonic environment. A red blood cell (low relative internal solute concentration) is placed in a high-solute concentration environment. There is a net movement of water out of the cell and the cell shrivels. Hemolysis of red blood cell placed in hypotonic environment. A red blood cell with high relative internal solute concentration is placed in a low solute concentration environment. There is a net movement of water into the cell and it swells.



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