The influence of viscoelastic gels as lining fluids on the pressure-velocity relationships in an airway tube model (Gaver et al. J. Appl. Physiol. 69: 74-85, 1990) was examined. A flow instability was observed due to the occurrence of a sol-gel transition in the viscoelastic properties under flow conditions. We further report measurements of the viscoelastic properties of airway secretions. Airway secretions are gels under small strains and have a yield stress of 4-7 dyn/cm2. Secretions from the pharyngeal airway show lower elasticity than secretions from the trachea. The airway reopening process is simulated using a Weibel lung geometry by incorporating the constitutive equations from the model gel studies and utilizing the rheological data on airway secretions. In these simulations, a "popping-open" phenomenon arises from a flow instability in airway generations 8-14 when the rheological properties of the lining fluids are assumed to be similar to those of pharyngeal secretions. On the basis of these studies, the elasticity of airway secretions plays an important role in airway reopening.
- Copyright © 1996 the American Physiological Society