Martonen TB, Yang Y, Hwang D, Fleming JS. Computer simulations of human lung structures for medical applications. Comput Biol Med. 1995 Sep;25(5):431-46

PMID: 8575158


Knowledge of the structure of the human lung has salient health effects applications. The clinical issues encompass: (1) aerosol therapy, the targeted delivery of inhaled particles to enhance the efficacies of pharmacologic drugs; and (2) nuclear medicine, where planar gamma camera imaging, Single Photon Emission Computer Tomography (SPECT) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) assess the distribution patterns of radiolabeled diagnostic particles and gases. If the resolution of such images could be enhanced, medical regimens would greatly benefit. Therefore, the focused objective of our work was to develop 3-D mathematical descriptions of the complex airway networks within the lung. A Silicon Graphics workstation was used to depict the daedal structures. The computer-generated color illustrations presented herein are intended to complement medical investigation. They will assist the clinician by serving as templates for the lung and, thereby, providing a real basis for the analysis of relatively abstract images. The illustrations identify individual airways and could be of great importance to physicians in the treatment of airway diseases occurring at well defined locations (e.g. bronchogenic carcinomas). To demonstrate that computers can be actively integrated into medical research and practice we have addressed SPECT images of a subject. Computer templates will aid future clinical investigators in two major ways: (1) the interpretation of a planar gamma camera, SPECT and PET images; and (2) the design of drug testing protocols using inhalation exposures. Considering their usefulness for demonstration, the lung simulations have the potential of playing a substantive role in education.