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Using an Incentive Spirometer

Man in hospital bed using incentive spirometer.
Deep breathing expands the lungs, aids circulation, and helps prevent pneumonia.

Soon after your surgery, a nurse or therapist will teach you breathing exercises. These keep your lungs clear, strengthen your breathing muscles, and help prevent complications.

The exercises include doing a deep-breathing exercise using a device called an incentive spirometer.

To do these exercises, you will breathe in through your mouth and not your nose. The incentive spirometer only works correctly if you breathe in through your mouth.

Steps to clear lungs

Step 1. Exhale normally.

  • Relax and breathe out.

Step 2. Place your lips tightly around the mouthpiece.

  • Make sure the device is upright and not tilted.

Step 3. Inhale as much air as you can through the mouthpiece (don't breath through your nose).

  • Inhale slowly and deeply.

  • Hold your breath long enough to keep the balls or disk raised for at least 3 seconds.

  • Some spirometers have an indicator to let you know that you are breathing in too fast. If the indicator goes off, breathe in more slowly.

Step 4. Repeat the exercise regularly.

  • Do this exercise every hour while you're awake, or as instructed by your healthcare provider.

  • You will also be taught deep breathing and coughing exercises and be asked to do them regularly on your own.

© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.