A mouthpiece plus noseclip (MP + NC) is frequently used in performing measurements of breathing patterns. Although the effects the apparatus exerts on breathing patterns have been studied, the mechanism of the changes it causes remains unclear. The current study examines the effects on respiratory patterns of a standard (17-mm-diam) MP + NC during room air (RA) breathing and the administration of 2 and 4% CO2 in normal volunteers and in patients 2-4 days after abdominal operation. When compared with values obtained with a noninvasive canopy system, the MP + NC induced increases in minute ventilation (VE), tidal volume (VT), and mean inspiratory flow (VT/TI), but not frequency (f) or inspiratory duty cycle, during both RA and CO2 administration. The percentage increase in VE, VT, and VT/TI caused by the MP + NC decreased as the concentration of CO2 increased. During RA breathing, the application of noseclip alone resulted in a decrease in f and an increase in VT, but VE and VT/TI were unchanged. The changes were attenuated during the administration of 2 and 4% CO2. Reducing the diameter of the mouthpiece to 9 mm abolished the alterations in breathing pattern observed with the larger (17-mm) diameter MP.