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Ann Biomed Eng. 2012 May;40(5):1142-59. doi: 10.1007/s10439-011-0485-0. Epub 2011 Dec 10.

Decomposition and description of the nasal cavity form.

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  • 1CEMAT, Department of Mathematics, Instituto Superior T├ęcnico, Lisbon 1049-001, Portugal.


Patient-specific studies of physiological flows rely on anatomically realistic or idealized models. Objective comparison of datasets or the relation of specific to idealized geometries has largely been performed in an ad hoc manner. Here, two rational procedures (based respectively on Fourier descriptors and medial axis (MA) transforms) are presented; each provides a compact representation of a complex anatomical region, specifically the nasal airways. The techniques are extended to furnish average geometries. These retain a sensible anatomical form, facilitating the identification of a specific anatomy as a set of weighted perturbations about the average. Both representations enable a rapid translation of the surface description into a virtual model for computation of airflow, enabling future work to comprehensively investigate the relation between anatomic form and flow-associated function, for the airways or for other complex biological conduits. The methodology based on MA transforms is shown to allow flexible geometric modeling, as illustrated by a local alteration in airway patency. Computational simulations of steady inspiratory flow are used to explore the relation between the flow in individual vs. averaged anatomical geometries. Results show characteristic flow measures of the averaged geometries to be within the range obtained from the original three subjects, irrespective of averaging procedure. However the effective regularization of anatomic form resulting from the shape averaging was found to significantly reduce trans-nasal pressure loss and the mean shear stress in the cavity. It is suggested that this may have implications in attempts to relate model geometries and flow patterns that are broadly representative.

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