Mucus clearance by two-phase gas-liquid flow mechanism: asymmetric periodic flow model

J Appl Physiol (1985). 1987 Mar;62(3):959-71. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1987.62.3.959.


Mucus transport by two-phase gas-liquid flow mechanism was investigated with in vitro flow models under asymmetric periodic airflow conditions with nine different liquid solutions with rheological properties similar to human sputum. The flow model was made with 1.0-cm-ID glass tube and positioned either vertically or horizontally. With a constant supply of the test liquids into the model tube (0.5 ml/min), the liquid layer transport speed (LLTS) as well as the mean liquid layer thickness at steady-state condition (hs) was measured in conjunction with various airflow patterns of different expiratory and inspiratory flow rate, breathing frequency (f), and tidal volume (VT). The flow patterns were maintained within the range of normal breathing. In the horizontal tube model, LLTS ranged from 1.14 +/- 0.02 to 3.39 +/- 0.04 cm/min at the peak expiratory flow rate (VEp) of 30-60 l/min. The inspiratory flow rate, as well as f and VT did not affect LLTS. However, LLTS increased with increasing VEp, and at the same VEp LLTS was higher with viscoelastic than with viscous liquid. In the vertical tube model, the upward transport of mucus could not be achieved at VEp lower than 30 l/min particularly with low viscosity and low elasticity fluid. However, at high values of VEp, LLTS was comparable to that in the horizontal tube model with viscoelastic fluid, whereas LLTS of viscous liquid showed 26-40% lower than that in the horizontal tube model. The value of hs was 5-20% of the tube diameter at VEp of 30-60 l/min in both models. These results indicate that effective mucus clearance can be achieved by two-phase gas-liquid flow mechanism in patients with excessive bronchial secretions with biased tidal breathing favoring the expiratory flow and that the clearance can be further promoted by changing rheological properties of mucus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Elasticity
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Biological*
  • Mucus / physiology*
  • Respiration*
  • Silicone Oils*
  • Viscosity


  • Silicone Oils