Simulation of bronchial airway acoustics in healthy and asthmatic subjects

PLoS One. 2020 Feb 10;15(2):e0228603. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0228603. eCollection 2020.


The onset and development of many airway pathologies affect sound propagation throughout the respiratory system; changes in respiratory sounds are detected primarily by auscultation, which is highly skill dependent. The aim of the present study was to compare healthy and asthmatic pulmonary acoustics by applying a 1D model of wave propagation on CT-based patient-specific geometries. High-resolution CT lung images were acquired in five healthy volunteers and five asthmatic patients at total lung capacity (TLC) and functional residual capacity (FRC). Tracheobronchial trees were reconstructed from CT images. Acoustic pressure, impedance and wall radial velocity were measured by simulating acoustic wave propagation of two external, acoustic pressure waves (1 Pa, 200 and 600 Hz) from the trachea level to the 4th generation. In asthmatic patients, acoustic pressure averaged across the last three generations showed a reduction equal to 29.7% (p<0.01) at FRC, at 200 Hz; input and terminal impedance were 34.5% (p<0.05) higher both at FRC and TLC; wall radial velocity was more than 80% (p<0.05) lower in higher generations both at FRC and TLC. Airway differences in asthma alter acoustic parameters at FRC and TLC, with the greatest difference at FRC and 200 Hz. Acoustic wave propagation analysis represents a quantitative approach that has potential to objectively characterize airway differences in individuals with diseases such as asthma.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustics
  • Adult
  • Asthma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Auscultation*
  • Bronchi / diagnostic imaging*
  • Bronchi / physiopathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Computer Simulation
  • Female
  • Functional Residual Capacity
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Sound
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Total Lung Capacity
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.