Anatomy matters: The role of the subject-specific respiratory tract on aerosol deposition — A CFD study

Wedel J, Steinmann P, Štrakl M, Hriberšek M, Cui Y, Ravnik J (2022)

Publication Type: Journal article

Publication year: 2022


Article Number: 115372

DOI: 10.1016/j.cma.2022.115372


The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the greatest challenges to humanity nowadays. COVID-19 virus can replicate in the host's larynx region, which is in contrast to other viruses that replicate in lungs only, i.e. SARS. This is conjectured to support a fast spread of COVID-19. However, there is sparse research in this field about quantitative comparison of virus load in the larynx for varying susceptible individuals. In this regard the lung geometry itself could influence the risk of reproducing more pathogens and consequently exhaling more virus. Disadvantageously, there are only sparse lung geometries available. To still be able to investigate realistic geometrical deviations we employ three different digital replicas of human airways up to the 7th level of bifurcation, representing two realistic lungs (male and female) as well as a more simplified experimental model. Our aim is to investigate the influence of breathing scenarios on aerosol deposition in anatomically different, realistic human airways. In this context, we employ three levels of cardiovascular activity as well as reported experimental particle size distributions by means of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) with special focus on the larynx region to enable new insights into the local virus loads in human respiratory tracts. In addition, the influence of more realistic boundary conditions is investigated by performing transient simulations of a complete respiratory cycle in the upper lung regions of the considered respiratory models, focusing in particular on deposition in the oral cavity, the laryngeal region, and trachea, while simplifying the tracheobronchial tree. The aerosol deposition is modeled via OpenFOAM\protect \relax \special {t4ht=®} by employing an Euler-Lagrangian frame including steady and unsteady Reynolds Averaged Navier–Stokes (RANS) resolved turbulent flow using the k-ω-SST and k-ω-SST DES turbulence models. We observed that the respiratory geometry altered the local deposition patterns, especially in the laryngeal region. Despite the larynx region, the effects of varying flow rate for the airway geometries considered were found to be similar in the majority of respiratory tract regions. For all particle size distributions considered, localized particle accumulation occurred in the larynx of all considered lung models, which were more pronounced for larger particle size distributions. Moreover, it was found, that employing transient simulations instead of steady-state analysis, the overall particle deposition pattern is maintained, however with a stronger intensity in the transient cases.

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Wedel, J., Steinmann, P., Štrakl, M., Hriberšek, M., Cui, Y., & Ravnik, J. (2022). Anatomy matters: The role of the subject-specific respiratory tract on aerosol deposition — A CFD study. Computer Methods in Applied Mechanics and Engineering.


Wedel, Jana, et al. "Anatomy matters: The role of the subject-specific respiratory tract on aerosol deposition — A CFD study." Computer Methods in Applied Mechanics and Engineering (2022).

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