The effect of posture on asynchronous chest wall movement in COPD

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2013 Apr;114(8):1066-75. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00414.2012. Epub 2013 Feb 14.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients often show asynchronous movement of the lower rib cage during spontaneous quiet breathing and exercise. We speculated that varying body position from seated to supine would influence rib cage asynchrony by changing the configuration of the respiratory muscles. Twenty-three severe COPD patients (forced expiratory volume in 1 s = 32.5 ± 7.0% predicted) and 12 healthy age-matched controls were studied. Measurements of the phase shift between upper and lower rib cage and between upper rib cage and abdomen were performed with opto-electronic plethysmography during quiet breathing in the seated and supine position. Changes in diaphragm zone of apposition were measured by ultrasounds. Control subjects showed no compartmental asynchronous movement, whether seated or supine. In 13 COPD patients, rib cage asynchrony was noticed in the seated posture. This asynchrony disappeared in the supine posture. In COPD, upper rib cage and abdomen were synchronous when seated, but a strong asynchrony was found in supine. The relationships between changes in diaphragm zone of apposition and volume variations of chest wall compartments supported these findings. Rib cage paradox was noticed in approximately one-half of the COPD patients while seated, but was not related to impaired diaphragm motion. In the supine posture, the rib cage paradox disappeared, suggesting that, in this posture, diaphragm mechanics improves. In conclusion, changing body position induces important differences in the chest wall behavior in COPD patients.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diaphragm / diagnostic imaging
  • Diaphragm / physiopathology*
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement*
  • Plethysmography
  • Posture*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / diagnostic imaging
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Supine Position
  • Thoracic Wall / diagnostic imaging
  • Thoracic Wall / physiopathology*
  • Ultrasonography
  • Vital Capacity