Inhaled aerosols: lung deposition and clinical applications

Clin Phys Physiol Meas. 1982 Feb;3(1):1-20. doi: 10.1088/0143-0815/3/1/001.


Although aerosol deposition in the lungs is often considered in the context of industrial hygiene, aerosols also play an important clinical role. Three principal mechanisms (inertial impaction, gravitational sedimentation and Brownian diffusion) account for the majority of aerosol deposition in the lungs. Deposition depends upon the mode of inhalation, the nature of the particles and physical characteristics of the subject inhaling the particles. Radioaerosols are widely employed in measurements of total and regional deposition, and topographical distribution may also be determined. Aerosols play an important role in the treatment of various forms of respiratory disease, with bronchodilators for the therapy of asthma being particularly important. On average only 10% of the therapeutic aerosol dose actually reaches the lungs. The rate of removal of insoluble radioaerosols deposited in the lungs may be used as an index of mucociliary transport. Aerosols are also used in a variety of other diagnostic and research procedures, particularly for ventilation scanning, alveolar clearance, measurement of alveolar permeability, and for measuring the size of pulmonary air space.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols*
  • Asthma / diagnostic imaging
  • Bronchitis / diagnostic imaging
  • Bronchodilator Agents / administration & dosage
  • Cilia / physiology
  • Humans
  • Lung / physiology*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / physiology
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Respiration
  • Respiratory Therapy


  • Aerosols
  • Bronchodilator Agents