Importance of airway blood flow on particle clearance from the lung

Elizabeth M. Wagner, W. Michael Foster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The role of the airway circulation in supporting mucociliary function has been essentially unstudied. We evaluated the airway clearance of inert, insoluble particles in anesthetized ventilated sheep (n = 8), in which bronchial perfusion was controlled, to determine whether airway mucosal blood flow is essential for maintaining surface transport of particles through airways. The bronchial branch of the bronchoesophageal artery was cannulated and perfused with autologous blood at control flow (0.6 ml · min-1 · kg- 1) or perfusion was stopped. With the sheep in a supine position and after a steady-state 133Xe ventilation scan for designation of lung zones of interest, an inert 99mTc-labeled sulfur colloid aerosol (2.1-μm diameter) was deposited in the lung. The clearance kinetics of the radiolabeled particles were determined from the activity-time data obtained for right and left lung zones. At 60 min postdeposition of aerosol, average airway particle retention for control bronchial blood flow conditions was 57 ± 7 (SE)% for the right and 53 ± 8% for the left lung zones. Clearance of particles was significantly impaired when bronchial blood flow was stopped, e.g., right and left lung zones averaged 77 ± 6 and 76 ± 7% at 60 min, respectively (P < 0.05). These data demonstrate a significant influence of the bronchial circulation on mucociliary transport of insoluble particles. Potential mechanisms that may account for these results include the importance of the bronchial circulation for nutrient flow, maintenance of airway wall temperature and humidity, and release of mediators and sequelae associated with tissue ischemia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1878-1883
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1996


  • bronchial artery
  • insoluble particle transport
  • mucociliary clearance
  • sheep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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