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Computational and Mathematical Methods in Medicine
Volume 2016, Article ID 3181654, 10 pages
Research Article

Numerical Investigation of Flow Characteristics in the Obstructed Realistic Human Upper Airway

1College of Metrology and Measurement Engineering, China Jiliang University, Hangzhou, China
2Department of Mechanical Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Kowloon, Hong Kong
3Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Automation, Zhejiang Sci-Tech University, Hangzhou, China

Received 29 April 2016; Revised 22 June 2016; Accepted 23 June 2016

Academic Editor: Yi Sui

Copyright © 2016 Xingli Liu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The flow characteristics in the realistic human upper airway (HUA) with obstruction that resulted from pharyngeal collapse were numerically investigated. The 3D anatomically accurate HUA model was reconstructed from CT-scan images of a Chinese male patient (38 years, BMI 25.7). The computational fluid dynamics (CFD) with the large eddy simulation (LES) method was applied to simulate the airflow dynamics within the HUA model in both inspiration and expiration processes. The laser Doppler anemometry (LDA) technique was simultaneously adopted to measure the airflow fields in the HUA model for the purpose of testifying the reliability of LES approach. In the simulations, the representative respiration intensities of 16.8 L/min (slight breathing), 30 L/min (moderate breathing), and 60 L/min (severe breathing) were conducted under continuous inspiration and expiration conditions. The airflow velocity field and static pressure field were obtained and discussed in detail. The results indicated the airflow experiences unsteady transitional/turbulent flow in the HUA model under low Reynolds number. The airflow fields cause occurrence of forceful injection phenomenon due to the narrowing of pharynx caused by the respiratory illness in inspiration and expiration. There also exist strong flow separation and back flow inside obstructed HUA owing to the vigorous jet flow effect in the pharynx. The present results would provide theoretical guidance for the treatment of obstructive respiratory disease.