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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Incentive Spirometer

An incentive spirometer is designed to help keep your lungs clear after lung surgery and to improve lung function. It may also be used if you have received heart surgery or are in bed for a long recovery time.

Who Uses an Incentive Spirometer

An incentive spirometer is typically used by patients who have:

  • Airway or breathing problems
  • Head, neck, chest or abdominal surgery
  • A history of smoking
  • Limited mobility

How it Works

You use the incentive spirometer by breathing in slowly and deeply through a tube connected to it. This breath is measured by an indicator gauge, which determines how well your lungs are functioning.

  • Place the mouthpiece in your mouth with a tight seal, being careful not to block the mouthpiece with your tongue

  • Inhale slowly and deeply through the mouthpiece to move the indicator, trying to make it reach the target level set by your physician or nurse

  • Note the highest indicator level you reached

  • After reaching the point where you cannot inhale any longer, remove the mouthpiece and hold your breath for at least three seconds

  • Then exhale normally

  • This should be repeated 5 to 10 times every hour when awake, or as often as you are instructed by your physician or nurse

  • After each session, you should try to cough out any mucus that is in your lungs

Last UpdateJanuary 18, 2012