What Is the Definition of Respiratory Excursion?

Respiratory excursion is the degree to which the ribcage expands and contracts as a person breathes. According to the University of California at San Diego, respiratory excursion assessment is a manual procedure during which a physician places his hands flat on the back of the patient, with the thumbs near or on the tenth rib. As the patient takes deep breaths, the degree and symmetry of respiratory excursion become apparent.

Respiratory excursion evaluation is an integral component of many physical diagnostic examinations because it is quick, painless and non-invasive. Anomalies detected during the evaluation indicate the possibility of pneumonia or a collapsed lung. Both conditions are serious and require diagnostic confirmation with chest x-rays.

Patients with pneumonia receive pharmaceutical treatment. If respiratory excursion analysis and a chest x-ray reveal a collapsed lung, most patients require an immediate procedure to vacate leaked air in the chest cavity and restore the affected lung to its proper function. Patients who are otherwise healthy and experience a minor collapse often heal spontaneously in response to oxygen therapy and bed rest. In other cases, the standard treatment is insertion of a temporary chest tube with an external butterfly valve. The patient releases accumulated thoracic air by manipulating this valve. The process normally takes several days.