Using an Incentive Spirometer

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.

Man sitting in hospital bed with tube from incentive spirometer in his mouth. His lips are sealed around tube and he is blowing into it.

Four 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 your healthcare provider tells you to.

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



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