Computational fluid dynamics analysis of upper airway reconstructed from Magnetic Resonance Imaging data.

Authors: Mihaescu, M, Murugappan, S., Gutmark, E., Donnelly, F., Khosla, S., Kalra, M.
Document Type: Article
Pubstate: Published
Journal: Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology.
Volume: 117(4)   303-309
Year: 2008


Objectives: We performed flow computations on an accurate upper airway model in a patient with obstructive sleep apnea and computed the velocity, static pressure, and wall shear stress distribution in the model. Methods: Cartesian coordinates for airway boundaries were determined from cross-sectional magnetic resonance images, and a 3-dimensional computational model of the upper airway was constructed. Flow simulations were then performed within a FLUENT commercial software framework. Four different flow conditions were simulated during inspiration, assuming the steady-state condition. The results were analyzed from the perspectives of velocity, static pressure, and wall shear stress distribution. Results: We observed that the highest axial velocity was at the site of minimum cross-sectional area (retropalatal pharynx) resulting in the lowest level of wall static pressure. The highest wall shear stresses were at the same location. The pressure drop was significantly larger for higher How rates than for lower flow rates. Conclusions: Our results indicate that the presence of airway narrowing, through change in the flow characteristics that result in increased flow velocity and reduced static pressure, can itself increase airway collapsibility. Additionally, the effects of wall shear stress on airway walls may be an important factor in the progression overtime of the severity of obstructive sleep apnea.