Direct visualizations of air flow in the human upper airway using in-vitro models
A better understanding of airflow characteristics in the upper airway (UA) is crucial in investigating obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), particle sedimentation, drug delivery, and many biomedical problems. Direct visualization of air flow patterns in in-vitro models with realistic anatomical structures is a big challenge. In this study, we constructed unique half-side transparent physical models of normal UA based on realistic anatomical structures. A smoke-wire method was developed to visualize the air flow in UA models directly. The results revealed that the airflow through the pharynx was laminar but not turbulent under normal inspiration, which suggested that compared with turbulent models, a laminar model should be more suitable in numerical simulations. The flow predicted numerically using the laminar model was consistent with the observations in the physical models. The comparison of the velocity fields predicted numerically using the half-side and complete models confirmed that it was reasonable to investigate the flow behaviors in UA using the half-side model. Using the laminar model, we simulated the flow and evaluated the effects of UA narrowing caused by rostral fluid shift on pharyngeal resistance. The results suggested that fluid shift could play an important role in the formation of hypopnea or OSA during sleep.
Keywordsair flow visualization upper airway model flow characteristic smoke-wire method flow simulation fluid shift
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This work was supported by the National Nature Science Foundation of China (31670959, 81171422), the National Science and Technology Pillar Program of China (2012BAI05B03), the Key Projects in Science and Technology Program of Beijing Municipal Education Commission, China (KZ201210025022), Beijing Postdoctoral Research Foundation (2016ZZ-45) and Beijing Key Laboratory of Fundamental Research on Biomechanics in Clinical Application.
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