The use of standard instrumentation for the assessment of the respiration rate as of flow is an important goal in medicine. Spirometers, textile-based capacitive sensors or photopletismography are standard contact instrumentations used for such aim; the main drawback in the use of such instrumentations is the necessity to have a direct contact of the instrument with the patient. In this paper, we present an optical no-contact method for monitoring of both the respiration rate and flow. This method is based on the measurement of external chest wall movement by a laser Doppler vibrometer. The measurement procedure has already been demonstrated to be extremely well performing for what concern the monitoring of the cardiac activity. The proposed method can be operated at a distance of 1.5 m, on different point of the patient thoracic and abdominal area. We have monitored respiration rate and flow on 8 patients with a spirometer and simultaneously with the proposed noncontact measurement procedure. Bland-Altman analysis of the respiration rate measured with both instruments demonstrate a mean error on the determination of the respiration rate of < 1% and of the < 4% for the instantaneous flow. We also report a study on the optimal position on the thoracic area based on quality of the signal measured on the same population of subject.© (2010) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.