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J Appl Physiol. 2014 Nov 1;117(9):979-88. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00466.2014.

Pendelluft in the bronchial tree

Elliot E Greenblatt, James P Butler, Jose G Venegas, Tilo Winkler.

PMID: 25170072 PMCID: PMC4217048


Inhomogeneous inflation or deflation of the lungs can cause dynamic pressure differences between regions and lead to interregional airflows known as pendelluft. This work first uses analytical tools to clarify the theoretical limits of pendelluft at a single bifurcation. It then explores the global and regional pendelluft that may occur throughout the bronchial tree in a realistic example using an in silico model of bronchoconstriction. The theoretical limits of pendelluft volume exchanged at a local bifurcation driven by sinusoidal breathing range from 15.5% to 41.4% depending on the relative stiffness of the subtended regions. When nonsinusoidal flows are considered, pendelluft can be as high as 200% inlet tidal volume (Vin). At frequencies greater than 10 Hz, the inertia of the air in the airways becomes important, and the maximal local pendelluft is theoretically unbounded, even with sinusoidal breathing. In a single illustrative numerical simulation of bronchoconstriction with homogenous compliances, the overall magnitude of global pendelluft volume was <2% of the tidal volume. Despite the small overall magnitude, pendelluft volume exchange was concentrated in poorly ventilated regions of the lung, including local pendelluft at bifurcations of up to 13% Vin. This example suggests that pendelluft may be an important phenomena contributing to regional gas exchange, irreversible mixing, and aerosol deposition patterns inside poorly ventilated regions of the lung. The analytical results support the concept that pendelluft may be more prominent in diseases with significant heterogeneity in both resistance and compliance.