Numerical simulation of two consecutive nasal respiratory cycles: toward a better understanding of nasal physiology

Int Forum Allergy Rhinol. 2018 Jun;8(6):676-685. doi: 10.1002/alr.22086. Epub 2018 Jan 16.


Background: Computational fluid dynamic (CFD) simulations have greatly improved the understanding of nasal physiology. We postulate that simulating the entire and repeated respiratory nasal cycles, within the whole sinonasal cavities, is mandatory to gather more accurate observations and better understand airflow patterns.

Methods: A 3-dimensional (3D) sinonasal model was constructed from a healthy adult computed tomography (CT) scan which discretized in 6.6 million cells (mean volume, 0.008 mm3 ). CFD simulations were performed with ANSYS©FluentTMv16.0.0 software with transient and turbulent airflow (k-ω model). Two respiratory cycles (8 seconds) were simulated to assess pressure, velocity, wall shear stress, and particle residence time.

Results: The pressure gradients within the sinus cavities varied according to their place of connection to the main passage. Alternations in pressure gradients induced a slight pumping phenomenon close to the ostia but no movement of air was observed within the sinus cavities. Strong movements were observed within the inferior meatus during expiration contrary to the inspiration, as in the olfactory cleft at the same time. Particle residence time was longer during expiration than inspiration due to nasal valve resistance, as if the expiratory phase was preparing the next inspiratory phase. Throughout expiration, some particles remained in contact with the lower turbinates. The posterior part of the olfactory cleft was gradually filled with particles that did not leave the nose at the next respiratory cycle. This pattern increased as the respiratory cycle was repeated.

Conclusion: CFD is more efficient and reliable when the entire respiratory cycle is simulated and repeated to avoid losing information.

Keywords: 3D model; Computational fluid dynamics (CFD); airflow; nasal airway; nasal cavity; physiology; velocity; wall shear stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Models, Anatomic
  • Nasal Cavity / physiology*
  • Particulate Matter / analysis
  • Pressure
  • Respiration*
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Particulate Matter