Identifying Respiratory Patterns

The chart below shows several common types of respiratory patterns and their possible causes. It's important to assess the patient for the underlying cause and the effect on the patient.

ApneaPeriodic absence of breathing
  • Mechanical airway obstruction
  • Conditions affecting the brain's respiratory center in the lateral medulla oblongata
ApneusticProlonged, gasping inspiration followed by extremely short, inefficient expiration
  • Lesions of the respiratory center
BradypneaSlow, regular respirations of equal depth
  • Normal pattern during sleep
  • Conditions affecting the respiratory center: tumors, metabolic disorders, respiratory decompensation, and use of opiates or alcohol
Cheyne-StokesFast, deep respirations of 30 to 170 seconds punctuated by periods of apnea lasting 20 to 60 seconds
  • Increased intracranial pressure, severe congestive heart failure, renal failure, meningitis, drug overdose, and cerebral anoxia
EupneaNormal rate and rhythm
  • Normal respiration
Kussmaul'sFast (over 20 breaths/minute), deep (resembling sighs), labored respirations without pause
  • Renal failure and metabolic acidosis, particularly diabetic ketoacidosis
TachypneaRapid respirations. Rate rises with body temperature: about four breaths per minute for every degree Fahrenheit above normal
  • Pneumonia, compensatory respiratory alkalosis, respiratory insufficiency, lesions of the respiratory center, and salicylate poisoning