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Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2009 Jun 13;367(1896):2333-46. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2008.0295.

Alveolar duct expansion greatly enhances aerosol deposition: a three-dimensional computational fluid dynamics study.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, mail code 0931, La Jolla, CA 92093-0931, USA.


Obtaining in vivo data of particle transport in the human lung is often difficult, if not impossible. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) can provide detailed information on aerosol transport in realistic airway geometries. This paper provides a review of the key CFD studies of aerosol transport in the acinar region of the human lung. It also describes the first ever three-dimensional model of a single fully alveolated duct with moving boundaries allowing for the cyclic expansion and contraction that occurs during breathing. Studies of intra-acinar aerosol transport performed in models with stationary walls (SWs) showed that flow patterns were influenced by the geometric characteristics of the alveolar aperture, the presence of the alveolar septa contributed to the penetration of the particles into the lung periphery and there were large inhomogeneities in deposition patterns within the acinar structure. Recent studies have now used acinar models with moving walls. In these cases, particles penetrate the alveolar cavities not only as a result of sedimentation and diffusion but also as a result of convective transport, resulting in a much higher deposition prediction than that in SW models. Thus, models that fail to incorporate alveolar wall motions probably underestimate aerosol deposition in the acinar region of the lung.

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