Time-Dependent Fluid-Structure Interaction Simulations of a Simplified Human Soft Palate

Bioengineering (Basel). 2023 Nov 14;10(11):1313. doi: 10.3390/bioengineering10111313.


Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS) is a common sleep-related disorder. It is characterized by recurrent partial or total collapse of pharyngeal upper airway accompanied by induced vibrations of the soft tissues (e.g., soft palate). The knowledge of the tissue behavior subject to a particular airflow is relevant for realistic clinic applications. However, in-vivo measurements are usually impractical. The goal of the present study is to develop a 3D fluid-structure interaction model for the human uvulopalatal system relevant to OSA based on simplified geometries under physiological conditions. Numerical simulations are performed to assess the influence of the different breathing conditions on the vibrational dynamics of the flexible structure. Meanwhile, the fluid patterns are investigated for the coupled fluid-structure system as well. Increasing the respiratory flow rate is shown to induce larger structural deformation. Vortex shedding induced resonance is not observed due to the large discrepancy between the flow oscillatory frequency and the natural frequency of the structure. The large deformation for symmetric breathing case under intensive respiration is mainly because of the positive feedback from the pressure differences on the top and the bottom surfaces of the structure.

Keywords: 3D simplified model; fluid-structure interaction; obstructive sleep apnea; soft palate.