Movement of the ribs in supine humans for small and large changes in lung volume

Billy L. Luu, Rhys J. McDonald, Bart Bolsterlee, Martin E. Heroux, Jane E. Butler, Anna L. Hudson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


An object-tracking algorithm was used on computed tomography (CT) images of the thorax from six healthy participants and nine participants with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to describe the movement of the ribs between the static lung volumes of functional residual capacity (FRC) and total lung capacity (TLC). The continuous motion of the ribs during tidal breathing was also described using four-dimensional CT datasets from seven participants with thoracic esophageal malignancies. Rib motion was defined relative to a local joint coordinate system where rotations about the axes that predominantly affected the anteroposterior and transverse diameters of the rib cage were referred to as pump-handle and bucket-handle movements, respectively. Between TLC and FRC, pump-handle movements were 1.8 times larger in healthy participants than in participants with COPD, in line with their 1.6 times larger inspiratory capacities. However, when rib motion was normalized to the change in lung volume, pump-handle movements were similar for healthy participants and participants with COPD. We found no differences in bucket-handle movements between participant groups before and after normalization. Pump-handle movement was the dominant rib motion between FRC and TLC, on average four times greater than bucket-handle movement in healthy participants. For expiratory tidal volume, pump-handle movements were 20% smaller than bucket-handle movements. When normalized to tidal volume and compared with inspiratory capacity, pump-handle movements were smaller and bucket-handle movements were larger during tidal breathing. The findings suggest that the pump-handle and bucket-handle components of rib motion vary for small and large changes in lung volume.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)174-183
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Breathing
  • Bucket-handle
  • Computed tomography
  • Object tracking
  • Pump-handle


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