Numerical study of dynamic glottis and tidal breathing on respiratory sounds in a human upper airway model

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Sleep & breathing = Schlaf & Atmung


BACKGROUND: Human snores are caused by vibrating anatomical structures in the upper airway. The glottis is a highly variable structure and a critical organ regulating inhaled flows. However, the effects of the glottis motion on airflow and breathing sound are not well understood, while static glottises have been implemented in most previous in silico studies. The objective of this study is to develop a computational acoustic model of human airways with a dynamic glottis and quantify the effects of glottis motion and tidal breathing on airflow and sound generation.

METHODS: Large eddy simulation and FW-H models were adopted to compute airflows and respiratory sounds in an image-based mouth-lung model. User-defined functions were developed that governed the glottis kinematics. Varying breathing scenarios (static vs. dynamic glottis; constant vs. sinusoidal inhalations) were simulated to understand the effects of glottis motion and inhalation pattern on sound generation. Pressure distributions were measured in airway casts with different glottal openings for model validation purpose.

RESULTS: Significant flow fluctuations were predicted in the upper airways at peak inhalation rates or during glottal constriction. The inhalation speed through the glottis was the predominating factor in the sound generation while the transient effects were less important. For all frequencies considered (20-2500 Hz), the static glottis substantially underestimated the intensity of the generated sounds, which was most pronounced in the range of 100-500 Hz. Adopting an equivalent steady flow rather than a tidal breathing further underestimated the sound intensity. An increase of 25 dB in average was observed for the life condition (sine-dynamic) compared to the idealized condition (constant-rigid) for the broadband frequencies, with the largest increase of approximately 40 dB at the frequency around 250 Hz.

CONCLUSION: Results show that a severely narrowing glottis during inhalation, as well as flow fluctuations in the downstream trachea, can generate audible sound levels.

Medical Subject Headings

Acoustics; Adult; Cadaver; Computer Simulation; Glottis; Humans; Male; Models, Biological; Respiration; Respiratory Sounds; Snoring

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