Design of peripheral airways for efficient gas exchange

Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2005 Aug 25;148(1-2):3-21. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2005.03.005.


Peripheral airways combine branched tubes for ventilation with the gas exchanging alveoli in the pulmonary acini, defined as the complex of airways supplied by one first order respiratory or transitional bronchiole. In this part, the replenishment of oxygen at the alveolar surface occurs by a combination of convective air flow with diffusion of oxygen in the air. The transition between convection and diffusion depends on the morphometric properties of the airways. The design of the peripheral airways in the acinus of the human lung is described quantitatively on the basis of measurements obtained on casts of the acinar airways. Comparable data for rat and rabbit are also discussed. On the basis of this morphometric information, a typical path model for human acinar airways is derived. These studies also form the basis for advanced modeling studies of gas exchange and ventilation. In particular the problems occurring because of diffusional screening and the design conditions for minimizing this effect are discussed.

Publication types

  • Technical Report

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bronchi / physiology*
  • Bronchi / ultrastructure
  • Diffusion
  • Equipment Design*
  • Gases / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lung*
  • Microscopy, Electron / methods
  • Models, Anatomic
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / physiology*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / ultrastructure
  • Pulmonary Gas Exchange / physiology*
  • Respiration, Artificial


  • Gases