Large Eddy Simulation of the pharyngeal airflow associated with Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome at pre and post-surgical treatment.

Authors: Mihaescu, M, Mylavarapu, G., Gutmark, E., Powell, N.
Document Type: Article
Pubstate: Published
Journal: Journal of Biomechanics.
Volume: 44(12)   2221-2228
Year: 2011


Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS) is the most common sleep-disordered breathing medical condition and a potentially life-threatening affliction. Not all the surgical or non-surgical OSAS therapies are successful for each patient, also in part because the primary factors involved in the etiology of this disorder are not completely understood. Thus, there is a need for improving both diagnostic and treatment modalities associated with OSAS. A verified and validated (in terms of mean velocity and pressure fields) Large Eddy Simulation approach is used to characterize the abnormal pharyngeal airflow associated with severe OSAS and its interaction with the airway wall in a subject who underwent surgical treatment. The analysis of the unsteady flow at pre and post-treatment is used to illustrate the airflow dynamics in the airway associated with OSAS and to reveal as well, the changes in the flow variables after the treatment. At pre-treatment, large airflow velocity and wall shear stress values were found at the obstruction site in all cases. Downstream of obstruction, flow separation generated flow recirculation regions and enhanced the turbulence production in the jet-like shear-layers. The interaction between the generated vortical structures and the pharyngeal airway wall induced large fluctuations in the pressure forces acting on the pharyngeal wall. After the surgery, the flow field instabilities vanished and both airway resistance and wall shear stress values were significantly reduced.