An Experimental and Numerical Investigation of CO2 Distribution in the Upper Airways During Nasal High Flow Therapy

S. C. Van Hove, J. Storey, C. Adams, K. Dey, P. H. Geoghegan, N. Kabaliuk, S. D. Oldfield, C. J.T. Spence, Mark C. Jermy, V. Suresh, J. E. Cater*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nasal high flow (NHF) therapy is used to treat a variety of respiratory disorders to improve patient oxygenation. A CO2 washout mechanism is believed to be responsible for the observed increase in oxygenation. In this study, experimentally validated Computational Fluid Dynamics simulations of the CO2 concentration within the upper airway during unassisted and NHF assisted breathing were undertaken with the aim of exploring the existence of this washout mechanism. An anatomically accurate nasal cavity model was generated from a CT scan and breathing was reproduced using a Fourier decomposition of a physiologically measured breath waveform. Time dependent CO2 profiles were obtained at the entrance of the trachea in the experimental model, and were used as simulation boundary conditions. Flow recirculation features were observed in the anterior portion of the nasal cavity upon application of the therapy. This causes the CO2 rich gas to vent from the nostrils reducing the CO2 concentration in the dead space and lowering the inspired CO2 volume. Increasing therapy flow rate increases the penetration depth within the nasal cavity of the low CO2 concentration gas. A 65% decrease in inspired CO2 was observed for therapy flow rates ranging from 0 to 60 L min−1 supporting the washout mechanism theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3007-3019
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of Biomedical Engineering
Issue number10
Early online date8 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Breathing therapy
  • CO washout
  • Computational fluid dynamics
  • Nasal cavity
  • Non-invasive ventilation


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