Airway Research Group

The focus of the Airway Research Group is to discover how respiratory airflow is affected by disease. Our aim is to aid clinical decision making by understanding how certain treatment options will improve breathing, through reduced airway resistance, collapse, and breathing effort. Currently, we are concentrating on two areas of research – children with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and premature babies who have tracheomalacia.

We use dynamic MR imaging to visualize the size, shape, and motion of the airway, and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling to calculate how the air moves through that airway. We determine how the airway could be altered by respiratory support, surgery, and therapeutic drugs, and calculate how that would benefit the passage of air to and from the lungs.

As an example, preterm babies often experience dynamic collapse in the airway which increases their work of breathing, often resulting in oxygen support or mechanical ventilation. The goal is to understand the effect of airway abnormalities and how they contribute to patient symptoms separately from lung issues. In this research in premature babies, we use ultrashort echo time (UTE) MRI to capture the dynamic airway. The following video shows how the airway moves and influences the air flowing through it during one breathing cycle in a preterm subject with tracheomalacia.