Incentive Spirometry

Your doctor has prescribed incentive spirometry. This is a breathing exercise designed to help you take long, deep breaths, such as when you yawn. The incentive spirometer shows you how well you are taking deep breaths and expanding your lungs. Because it makes you breathe deeply, it improves your ability to clear mucus from your lungs. It may also increase the amount of oxygen that gets deep into your lungs.

Taking long deep breaths may help reverse or decrease the chance of developing breathing (pulmonary) problems following:

  • Surgery of the chest or abdomen
  • Surgery if you have a history of smoking or a lung problem
  • A long period of time when you are unable to move or be active

Before You Begin

  1. Your nurse or respiratory therapist will set the plastic pointer to a desired goal.
  2. If possible, sit up straight or lean slightly forward. Try not to slouch.
  3. Hold the incentive spirometer in an upright position.

Using the Incentive Spirometer

  1. Breathe out (exhale) normally.
  2. Place the mouthpiece in your mouth. Seal your lips around the mouthpiece.
  3. Breathe in (inhale) slowly and deeply with your lips sealed tightly on the mouthpiece.  Continue inhaling until your goal is reached. There is usually an indicator to show you how slowly you should inhale.
  4. After you inhale as deeply as you can, hold your breath for at least 3 seconds.
  5. Remove the mouthpiece from your mouth and breathe out normally.
  6. Repeat this technique as instructed, usually 10 to 15 times. Take your time. Take a few normal breaths between deep breaths.
  7. When you are finished with the 10 to 15 exercises, it is very important to take a deep breath and cough. You should cough 2 to 3 times. If you have pain while coughing, you may hold a pillow or rolled-up blanket against your incision site, and apply pressure as you cough.

When to Use Your Incentive Spirometer

You should use your incentive spirometer every 2 hours while you are awake. Make sure that it is kept in a place where you can reach it. If you can’t reach your goal at first, keep trying.

When to Call Your Doctor or Nurse

  • Breathing too quickly may cause dizziness. Take your time so you don’t get dizzy or light-headed. If you get dizzy or light-headed, stop and tell your nurse.
  • If you are in pain, tell your nurse. It is harder to take a deep breath if you are having pain.

Incentive Spirometry Patient Recording

Now that you are able to do incentive spirometry on your own, it might help to keep track of your progress. You can use the following chart.

Time 10 to 15 Exercises Performed Goal/Amount Reached

Reviewed 8/20/11

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