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Ann Biomed Eng. 2007 Apr;35(4):560-81. Epub 2007 Jan 20.

Transport and deposition of micro-aerosols in realistic and simplified models of the oral airway.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering, Virginia Commonwealth University, 601 West Main Street, P.O. Box 843015, Richmond, VA 23284-3015, USA.


A number of in vivo, in vitro and numerical studies have considered flow field characteristics and micro-particle deposition in the oral airway extending from the mouth through the larynx. These studies have highlighted the effects of flow rates, turbulence and particle characteristics on deposition values in realistic and simplified geometries. However, the effect of geometry simplifications on regional and local deposition patterns remains largely un-quantified for the oral airway and throughout the respiratory tract. The objective of this study is to assess the effects of geometry simplifications on regionally averaged and local micro-aerosol deposition characteristics in models of the extrathoracic oral airway. To achieve this objective, a realistic model of the oral airway has been constructed based on CT scans of a healthy adult in conjunction with measurements reported in the literature. Three other geometries with descending degrees of physical realism were constructed based on successive geometric simplifications of the realistic model. A validated low Reynolds number (LRN) k-omega turbulence model was employed to simulate laminar, transitional and fully turbulent flow regimes for 1-31 microm particles. Geometric simplifications were found to have a significant effect on aerosol dynamics, hot spot formations and cellular-level deposition values in the extrathoracic airway models considered. For all models, regional deposition efficiency results were found to be approximately within one standard deviation of available experimental data when plotted as a function of Stokes number. The realistic geometry provided the best predictions of regional deposition in comparison to experimental data as a function of particle diameter. Considering localized deposition, maximum deposition enhancement factors, which represent the ratio of local to total deposition, were one to two orders of magnitude higher for the realistic model. Geometric factors that significantly contributed to enhanced particle localization in the realistic model include a triangular-shaped glottis and a dorsal-sloped trachea. Therefore, highly realistic models of the oral airway geometry may be necessary to evaluate localized deposition patterns and hot spot formations, which are critical for accurately predicting cellular-level dose.

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