Role of collateral paths in long-range diffusion in lungs

Seth Emil T. Bartel, Susan E. Haywood, Jason C. Woods, Yulin V. Chang, Christopher Menard, Dmitriy A. Yablonskiy, David S. Gierada, Mark S. Conradi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The long-range apparent diffusion coefficient (LRADC) of 3He gas in lungs, measured over times of several seconds and distances of 1-3 cm, probes the connections between the airways. Previous work has shown the LRADC to be small in health and substantially elevated in emphysema, reflecting tissue destruction, which is known to create collateral pathways. To better understand what controls LRADC, we report computer simulations and measurements of 3He gas diffusion in healthy lungs. The lung is generated with a random algorithm using well-defined rules, yielding a three-dimensional set of nodes or junctions, each connected by airways to one parent node and two daughters; airway dimensions are taken from published values. Spin magnetization in the simulated lung is modulated sinusoidally, and the diffusion equation is solved to 1,000 s. The modulated magnetization decays with a time constant corresponding to an LRADC of ∼0.001 cm2/s, which is smaller by a factor of ∼20 than the values in healthy lungs measured here and previously in vivo and in explanted lungs. It appears that collateral gas pathways, not present in the simulations, are functional in healthy lungs; they provide additional and more direct routes for long-range motion than the canonical airway tree. This is surprising, inasmuch as collateral ventilation is believed to be physiologically insignificant in healthy lungs. We discuss the effect on LRADC of small collateral connections through airway walls and rule out other possible mechanisms. The role of collateral paths is supported by measurements of smaller LRADC in pigs, where collateral ventilation is known to be smaller.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1495-1503
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2008


  • Collateral ventilation
  • Gas magnetic resonance imaging
  • Hyperpolarized


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