Model of forced expiratory flows and airway geometry in infants

Rodney K. Lambert, Robert G. Castile, Robert S. Tepper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Early measurements of autopsied lungs from infants, children, and adults suggested that the ratio of peripheral to central airway resistance was higher in infants than older children and adults. Recent measurements of forced expiration suggest that infants have high flows relative to lung volume. We employed a computational model of forced expiratory flow along with physiological and anatomic data to evaluate whether the infant lung is a uniformly scaled-down version of the adult lung. First, we uniformly scaled an existing computational model of adult forced expiration to estimate forced expiratory flows (FEF) and density dependence for an 18-mo-old infant. The values obtained for FEF and density dependence were significantly lower than those reported for healthy 18-mo-old infants. Next, we modified the model for the infant lung to reproduce standard indexes of expiratory flow [forced expiratory volume in 0.5 s (FEV0.5), FEFs after exhalation of 50 and 75% forced vital capacity, FEF between 25 and 75% expired volume] for this age group. The airway sizes obtained for the infant lung model that produced accurate physiological measurements were similar to anatomic data available for this age and larger than those in the scaled model. Our findings indicate that the airways in the infant lung model differ from those in the scaled model, i.e., middle and peripheral airway sizes are larger than result from uniform downscaling of the adult lung model. We show that the infant lung model can be made to reproduce individual flow-volume curves by adjusting lumen area generation by generation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)688-692
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2004


  • Airway mechanics
  • Flow volume
  • Maximal expiratory flow-volume curve

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Endocrinology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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