A Device that Models Human Swallowing
The pharynx is critical for correct swallowing, facilitating the transport of both air and food transport in a highly coordinated manner, and aberrant co-ordination causes swallowing disorders (dysphagia). In this work, an in vitro model of swallowing was designed to investigate the role of rheology in swallowing and for use as a pre-clinical tool for simulation of different routes to dysphagia. The model is based on the geometry of the human pharynx. Manometry is used for pressure measurements and ultrasonic analysis is performed to analyze the flow profiles and determine shear rate in the bolus, the latter being vital information largely missing in literature. In the fully automated model, bolus injection, epiglottis/nasopharynx movement, and ultrasound transducer positioning can be controlled. Simulation of closing of the airways and nasal cavity is modulated by the software, as is a clamping valve that simulates the upper esophageal sphincter. The actions can be timed and valves opened to different degrees, resembling pathologic swallowing conditions. To validate measurements of the velocity profile and manometry, continuous and bolus flow was performed. The respective velocity profiles demonstrated the accuracy and validity of the flow characterization necessary for determining bolus flow. A maximum bolus shear rate of 80 s−1 was noted for syrup-consistency fluids. Similarly, the manometry data acquired compared very well with clinical studies.