Towards numerical simulations of fluid--structure interactions for investigation of obstructive sleep apnea

C.-J Huang, S.-C. Huang, S. M. White, S. M. Mallya and J. D. Eldredge

Theor. Comput. Fluid Dyn. 30(1--2) : 87-104. DOI 10.1007/s00162-016, January 2016.


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a medical condition characterized by repetitive partial or complete occlusion of the airway during sleep. The soft tissues in the airway of OSA patients are prone to collapse under the low pressure loads incurred during breathing. This paper describes efforts toward the development of a numerical tool for simulation of air-tissue interactions in the upper airway of patients with sleep apnea. A procedure by which patient-specific airway geometries are segmented and processed from dental cone-beam CT scans into signed distance fields is presented. A sharp-interface embedded boundary method based on the signed distance field is used on Cartesian grids for resolving the airflow in the airway geometries. For simulation of structure mechanics with large expected displacements, a cut-cell finite element method with non-linear Green strains is used. The fluid and structure solvers are strongly coupled with a partitioned iterative algorithm. Preliminary results are shown for flow simulation inside the three-dimensional rigid upper airway of patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Two validation cases for the fluid--structure coupling problem are also presented.

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