Distribution of aerosolized particles in healthy and emphysematous rat lungs: comparison between experimental and numerical studies

J Biomech. 2015 Apr 13;48(6):1147-57. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2015.01.004. Epub 2015 Jan 22.


In silico models of airflow and particle deposition in the lungs are increasingly used to determine the therapeutic or toxic effects of inhaled aerosols. While computational methods have advanced significantly, relatively few studies have directly compared model predictions to experimental data. Furthermore, few prior studies have examined the influence of emphysema on particle deposition. In this work we performed airflow and particle simulations to compare numerical predictions to data from our previous aerosol exposure experiments. Employing an image-based 3D rat airway geometry, we first compared steady flow simulations to coupled 3D-0D unsteady simulations in the healthy rat lung. Then, in 3D-0D simulations, the influence of emphysema was investigated by matching disease location to the experimental study. In both the healthy unsteady and steady simulations, good agreement was found between numerical predictions of aerosol delivery and experimental deposition data. However, deposition patterns in the 3D geometry differed between the unsteady and steady cases. On the contrary, satisfactory agreement was not found between the numerical predictions and experimental data for the emphysematous lungs. This indicates that the deposition rate downstream of the 3D geometry is likely proportional to airflow delivery in the healthy lungs, but not in the emphysematous lungs. Including small airway collapse, variations in downstream airway size and tissue properties, and tracking particles throughout expiration may result in a more favorable agreement in future studies.

Keywords: Aerosol exposure experiments; Airflow; Computational fluid dynamics; Multi-scale; Particle deposition.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols / pharmacokinetics*
  • Animals
  • Computer Simulation
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Lung / pathology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Particle Size
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / pathology*
  • Rats
  • Respiration
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Aerosols