Computational analysis of human upper airway aerodynamics

Rutger H.J. Hebbink, Bas J. Wessels, Rob Hagmeijer, Kartik Jain*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
29 Downloads (Pure)


There is a considerable interest in understanding transient human upper airway aerodynamics, especially in view of assessing the effects of various ventilation therapies. Experimental analyses in a patient-specific manner pose challenges as the upper airway consists of a narrow confined region with complex anatomy. Pressure measurements are feasible, but, for example, PIV experiments require special measures to accommodate for the light refraction by the model. Computational fluid dynamics can bridge the gap between limited experimental data and detailed flow features. This work aims to validate the use of combined lattice Boltzmann method and a large eddy scale model for simulating respiration, and to identify clinical features of the flow and show the clinical potential of the method. Airflow was computationally analyzed during a realistic, transient, breathing profile in an upper airway geometry ranging from nose to trachea, and the resulting pressure calculations were compared against in vitro experiments. Simulations were conducted on meshes containing about 1 billion cells to ensure accuracy and to capture intrinsic flow features. Airway pressures obtained from simulations and in vitro experiments are in good agreement both during inhalation and exhalation. High velocity pharyngeal and laryngeal jets and recirculation in the region of the olfactory cleft are observed. [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-553
Number of pages13
JournalMedical & biological engineering & computing
Early online date20 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • 2023 OA procedure


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