Computational Fluid Dynamics of the Pediatric Trachea

David Rutkowski


This research analyzes the physical effects of a tracheal obstruction in the airway of a pediatric patient diagnosed with tracheomalacia.  This condition causes a collapse of the trachea of young children, and is characterized by a lack of supporting cartilage in this region of the airway.  The obstruction alters airflow and pressure throughout the remainder of the respiratory tract.  Currently, medical professionals do not have a complete understanding of tracheomalacia.  Additionally, the processes currently used to diagnose this condition are unpleasant for children, and in some cases aggravate the obstructed airway.  In order to analyze the effects of tracheomalacia, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) was applied to study the airflow and pressure differences induced along the trachea.  The process began by obtaining a computed tomography (CT) scan of the airway of a child with tracheomalacia.  Using MIMICS (Materialise, Leuven, Belgium) software, the CT scan was converted into a three-dimensional (3D) computer model in standard transformation language (STL) format.  Magics (Materialise, Leuven, Belgium) software was then used to refine the computer model.  The STL file was then imported into CFD analysis software FLUENT (Ansys, Lebanon, USA).  Airflow simulations were then run, and results were compared to properties of a normal airway and displayed through computer 3D modeling and visual representation.  In order to provide a physical representation of the affected pediatric airway, physical 3D models were also created from the same STL files that were used for the CFD analysis, using the additive manufacturing process called selective laser sintering.  The results of this research will provide further insight into the effect of airway obstructions, such as tracheomalacia, on the properties of airflow through pediatric airways.


Computational Fluid Dynamics; Tracheomalacia; Airflow; Pediatric Airway; Selective Laser Sintering

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