Red blood cells tend to aggregate in the presence of plasma proteins, forming structures known as rouleaux. Here, we derive a constitutive rheological model for human blood which accounts for the formation and dissociation of rouleaux using the generalized bracket formulation of nonequilibrium thermodynamics. Similar to the model derived by Owens and co-workers [“A non-homogeneous constitutive model for human blood. Part 1. Model derivation and steady flow,” J. Fluid Mech. 617, 327–354 (2008)] through polymer network theory, each rouleau in our model is represented as a dumbbell; the corresponding structural variable is the conformation tensor of the dumbbell. The kinetics of rouleau formation and dissociation is treated as in the work of Germann et al. [“Nonequilibrium thermodynamic modeling of the structure and rheology of concentrated wormlike micellar solutions,” J. Non-Newton. Fluid Mech. 196, 51–57 (2013)] by assuming a set of reversible reactions, each characterized by a forward and a reverse rate constant. The final set of evolution equations for the microstructure of each rouleau and the expression for the stress tensor turn out to be very similar to those of Owens and co-workers. However, by explicitly considering a mechanism for the formation and breakage of rouleaux, our model further provides expressions for the aggregation and disaggregation rates appearing in the final transport equations, which in the kinetic theory-based network model of Owens were absent and had to be specified separately. Despite this, the two models are found to provide similar descriptions of experimental data on the size distribution of rouleaux.

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