Our aim was to determine whether inspiratory muscle fatigue changes breathing pattern and whether any changes seen occur before mechanical fatigue develops. Nine normal subjects breathed through a variable inspiratory resistance with a predetermined mouth pressure (Pm) during inspiration and a fixed ratio of inspiratory time to total breath duration. Breathing pattern after resistive breathing (recovery breathing pattern) was compared with breathing pattern at rest and during CO2 rebreathing (control breathing pattern) for each subject. Relative rapid shallow breathing was seen after mechanical fatigue and also in experiments with electromyogram evidence of diaphragmatic fatigue where Pm was maintained at the predetermined level during the period of resistive breathing. In contrast there was no significant difference between recovery and control breathing patterns when neither mechanical nor electromyogram fatigue was seen. It is suggested that breathing pattern after inspiratory muscle fatigue changes in order to minimize respiratory sensation.