Respiratory rate 5: using this vital sign to detect deterioration

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This article has been double-blind peer reviewed

In this article…

Key points

Respiratory rate is a vital sign and should be monitored regularly

Key points

It is uncommon for significant changes to occur in a single physiological parameter

Key points

It is important to assess multiple parameters and monitor trends

Key points

A respiratory rate of 21-24 breaths per minute is an early clinical sign of deterioration (amber on NEWS2)

Key points

Those with a respiratory rate of 25 or more are at high risk of deterioration (red on NEWS2)

This article is the fifth in a six-part series highlighting the importance of respiratory rate (RR) assessment. It uses a case study to build on the information in the previous parts, demonstrating the links between the anatomy and physiology of respiration and changes in RR, rhythm and chest movement in an acute illness.


Wheatley I (2018) Respiratory rate 5: using this vital sign to detect deterioration. Nursing Times; 114: 10, 45-46.

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