How To Use An Incentive Spirometer?

Laura Lee is getting ready for her valve surgery. In anticipation of her recovery, she asks me, “Would you please tell me how to use the incentive spirometer so I can start practicing? Thanks for everything! Laura Lee”

I was able to find some helpful instructions on how to use the incentive spirometer from the Cleveland Clinic and my own personal experience:

  • Place the mouthpiece in your mouth with your lips tightly sealed around it. Do not let your tongue block the mouthpiece.
  • Inhale (breathe in) slowly and deeply through the mouthpiece to raise the indicator. Try to make the indicator rise up to the level of the target pointer. This is the goal that you need to reach.
  • Note the highest level that the indicator has reached.
  • When you cannot inhale any longer, remove the mouthpiece and hold your breath for at least three seconds.
  • Exhale normally.
  • Repeat these steps 5 to 10 times every hour when awake, or as often as caregivers tell you to.
  • After each session, try to cough out the sputum (mucus) from your lungs. This is done by inhaling deeply and pushing the air out of your lungs with a deep, strong cough.
Patient Using Incentive Sprimoter In Hospital
Adam Using The Incentive Spirometer
In The Intensive Care Unit

To achieve the key benefits of using the incentive spirometer and avoid fluid in your lungs, please remember to use the device consistently. At the same time, you do not want to enhale too deeply, too quickly or you may experience discomfort and/or pain.

I hope this helps Laura Lee and you effectively use an incentive spirometer during your recovery.

Keep on tickin!

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.

To learn how Adam has helped millions of people with heart valve disease, watch Adam's video, subscribe to his free newsletter, or visit his Facebook, or Twitter pages.

  • George S

    Hi Laura Lee, It is really quite simple and your nurse or respiratory therapist will give you complete instructions and make sure you do it correctly when you are in the hospital. The instructions will vary depending on your size, level of pain post op and other factors. They may or may not have you hold your breath at the end of inhalation. They may start you off at about 3 times your normal breath volume or about 1300 to 1600 milliliters and have you increase the volume after that. Practice by slowly breathing to the 2,000 level without holding your breath at the end. Breathe out normally.
    Its purpose is to help you to take deeper (larger) than normal breaths, which helps prevent your alveoli (small air sacks deep in your lungs where gas exchange takes place with your blood) from collapsing. Good luck. I am a Registered Respiratory Therapist and will be having aortic valve and partial aorta replacement in the next year or 2.

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