Chest wall mechanics were studied in six healthy volunteers before and during anesthesia prior to surgery. The intratracheal, esophageal, and intragastric pressures were measured concurrently. Gas flow was measured by pneumotachography and gas volume was obtained from it by electrical integration. Rib cage and abdomen movements were registered with magnetometers, these being calibrated by "isovolume" maneuvers. During spontaneous breathing in the conscious state, rib cage volume displacement corresponded to 40% of the tidal volume. During anesthesia and artificial ventilation, this rose to 72% of the tidal volume. The relative contributions of rib cage and abdomen displacements were not influenced by a change in tidal volume. Compliance was higher with a larger tidal volume, a finding which could be due to a curved pressure-volume relationship of the overall chest wall.