, Volume 38, Issue 12, pp 3550-3571
Date: 08 Jul 2010

Numerical Study of High-Frequency Oscillatory Air Flow and Convective Mixing in a CT-Based Human Airway Model

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High-frequency oscillatory ventilation (HFOV) is considered an efficient and safe respiratory technique to ventilate neonates and patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome. HFOV has very different characteristics from normal breathing physiology, with a much smaller tidal volume and a higher breathing frequency. In this study, the high-frequency oscillatory flow is studied using a computational fluid dynamics analysis in three different geometrical models with increasing complexity: a straight tube, a single-bifurcation tube model, and a computed tomography (CT)-based human airway model of up to seven generations. We aim to understand the counter-flow phenomenon at flow reversal and its role in convective mixing in these models using sinusoidal waveforms of different frequencies and Reynolds (Re) numbers. Mixing is quantified by the stretch rate analysis. In the straight-tube model, coaxial counter flow with opposing fluid streams is formed around flow reversal, agreeing with an analytical Womersley solution. However, counter flow yields no net convective mixing at end cycle. In the single-bifurcation model, counter flow at high Re is intervened with secondary vortices in the parent (child) branch at end expiration (inspiration), resulting in an irreversible mixing process. For the CT-based airway model three cases are considered, consisting of the normal breathing case, the high-frequency-normal-Re (HFNR) case, and the HFOV case. The counter-flow structure is more evident in the HFNR case than the HFOV case. The instantaneous and time-averaged stretch rates at the end of two breathing cycles and in the vicinity of flow reversal are computed. It is found that counter flow contributes about 20% to mixing in HFOV.