Targeted Drug Delivery to Upper Airways Using a Pulsed Aerosol Bolus and Inhaled Volume Tracking Method

Flow Turbul Combust. 2019 Jan;102(1):73-87. doi: 10.1007/s10494-018-9927-1. Epub 2018 May 2.


The pulmonary route presents an attractive delivery pathway for topical treatment of lung diseases. While significant progress has been achieved in understanding the physical underpinnings of aerosol deposition in the lungs, our ability to target or confine the deposition of inhalation aerosols to specific lung regions remains meagre. Here, we present a novel inhalation proof-of-concept in silico for regional targeting in the upper airways, quantitatively supported by computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations of inhaled micron-sized particles (i.e. 1-10 μm) using an intubated, anatomically-realistic, multi-generation airway tree model. Our targeting strategy relies on selecting the particle release time, whereby a short-pulsed bolus of aerosols is injected into the airways and the inhaled volume of clean air behind the bolus is tracked to reach a desired inhalation depth (i.e. airway generations). A breath hold maneuver then follows to facilitate deposition, via sedimentation, before exhalation resumes and remaining airborne particles are expelled. Our numerical findings showcase how particles in the range 5-10 μm combined with such inhalation methodology are best suited to deposit in the upper airways, with deposition fractions between 0.68 and unity. In contrast, smaller (< 2 μm) particles are less than optimal due to their slow sedimentation rates. We illustrate further how modulating the volume inhaled behind the pulsed bolus, prior to breath hold, may be leveraged to vary the targeted airway sites. We discuss the feasibility of the proposed inhalation framework and how it may help pave the way for specialized topical lung treatments.

Keywords: Aerosol transport; CFD; Inhalation medicine; Lungs.