Inhalation therapy plays an important role in management or treatment of respiratory diseases such asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPDs). For decades, pressurized metered dose inhalers (pMDIs) have been the most popular and prescribed drug delivery devices for inhalation therapy. The main objectives of the present computational work are to study flow structure inside a pMDI, as well as transport and deposition of micron-sized particles in a model of human tracheobronchial airways and their dependence on inhalation air flow rate and characteristic pMDI parameters. The upper airway geometry, which includes the extrathoracic region, trachea, and bronchial airways up to the fourth generation in some branches, was constructed based on computed tomography (CT) images of an adult healthy female. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation was employed using the k-ω model with low-Reynolds number (LRN) corrections to accomplish the objectives. The deposition results of the present study were verified with the in vitro deposition data of our previous investigation on pulmonary drug delivery using a hollow replica of the same airway geometry as used for CFD modeling. It was found that the flow structure inside the pMDI and extrathoracic region strongly depends on inhalation flow rate and geometry of the inhaler. In addition, regional aerosol deposition patterns were investigated at four inhalation flow rates between 30 and 120 L/min and for 60 L/min yielding highest deposition fractions of 24.4% and 3.1% for the extrathoracic region (EX) and the trachea, respectively. It was also revealed that particle deposition was larger in the right branches of the bronchial airways (right lung) than the left branches (left lung) for all of the considered cases. Also, optimization of spray characteristics showed that the optimum values for initial spray velocity, spray cone angle and spray duration were 100 m/s, 10 and 0.1 sec, respectively. Moreover, spray cone angle, more than any other of the investigated pMDI parameters can change the deposition pattern of inhaled particles in the airway model. In conclusion, the present investigation provides a validated CFD model for particle deposition and new insights into the relevance of flow structure for deposition of pMDI-emitted pharmaceutical aerosols in the upper respiratory tract.
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