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Respiratory Exam

Respiratory Rate

March 4th, 2023


  • How to Measure

  • Count the patient's breaths over 30 seconds to one minute while ostensibly measuring the pulse.
    • Normal Range

    • 12 - 20 breaths per minute
  • Significance

  • The diaphragm has both somatic and autonomic innervation, and thus the respiratory rate can be altered both voluntarily and and involuntarily in response to physiologic or pathologic stimuli.


Respiratory rate greater then 20 breathes per minute.
  • Causes of Tachypnoea

  • Physiologic - during exercise or at high altitude
  • Anxiety
  • Metabolic acidosis - abdominal pathology, sepsis
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Pneumonia
  • Asthma
  • Respiratory failure


Respiratory rate less than 12 breaths per minute.
  • Causes of Bradypnoea

  • Respiratory suppression
  • Drugs - opioids
  • Respiratory failure
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Raised intracranial pressure
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