Annals of Biomedical Engineering

, Volume 19, Issue 6, pp 679–697 | Cite as

Sensitivity of CO2 washout to changes in acinar structure in a single-path model of lung airways

  • Jeffrey D. Schwardt
  • Sherif R. Gobran
  • Gordon R. Neufeld
  • Stanley J. Aukburg
  • Peter W. Scherer


A numerical solution of the convection-diffusion equation with an alveolar source term in a single-path model (SPM) of the lung airways simulates steady state CO2 washout. The SPM is used to examine the effects of independent changes in physiologic and acinar structure parameters on the slope and height of Phase III of the single-breath CO2 washout curve. The parameters investigated include tidal volume, breathing frequency, total cardiac output, pulmonary arterial CO2 tension, functional residual capacity, pulmonary bloodflow distribution, alveolar volume, total acinar airway cross sectional area, and gas-phase molecular diffusivity. Reduced tidal volume causes significant steepening of Phase III, which agrees well with experimental data. Simulations with a fixed frequency and tidal volume show that changes in blood-flow distribution, model airway cross section, and gas diffusivity strongly affect the slope of Phase III while changes in cardiac output and in pulmonary arterial CO2 tension strongly affect the height of Phase III. The paper also discusses differing explanations for the slope of Phase III, including sequential emptying, stratified inhomogeneity, and the issue of asymmetry, in the context of the SPM.


Convection Diffusion Pulmonary gas exchange Numerical model Phase III slope 


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Copyright information

© Pergamon Press plc 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey D. Schwardt
    • 1
  • Sherif R. Gobran
    • 1
    • 3
  • Gordon R. Neufeld
    • 2
    • 3
  • Stanley J. Aukburg
    • 2
  • Peter W. Scherer
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Bioengineering, School of Engineering and Applied ScienceUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphia
  2. 2.Department of AnesthesiaUniversity of Pennsylvania, School of MedicinePhiladelphia
  3. 3.Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical CenterPhiladelphia

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