During semistatic inspiratory and expiratory vital capacity (VC) maneuvers, axial motion of the diaphragm was measured by lateral fluoroscopy and was compared with diaphragmatic volume displacement. Axial motion was measured at the anterior, middle, and posterior parts of the diaphragm, and the mean of these measurements was used. The volume displacement was calculated in two ways: first, from respiratory inductive plethysmograph-(Respitrace) derived cross-sectional area changes of rib cage and abdomen (Vdi,RIP) by means of a theoretical analysis described by Mead and Loring (J. Appl. Physiol. 53: 750-755, 1982) and, second, from fluoroscopically measured changes in position and anteroposterior surface of the diaphragm (Vdi,F). A very good linear relationship was found between Vdi,RIP and Vdi,F during inspiration as well as expiration (r greater than 0.95), indicating that the analysis of Mead and Loring was valid in the conditions of the present study. The diaphragmatic volume displacement (active or passive) accounted for 50-60% of VC. A very good linear relationship was also found between mean axial motion and volume displacement of the diaphragm measured with both methods during inspiration and expiration (r greater than 0.98). Our data suggest that, over the VC range, diaphragmatic displacement functionally can be represented by a pistonlike model, although topographically and anatomically it does not behave as a piston.