Incentive Spirometer Use, Benefits, and Risks

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The recommended spirometer is a portable medical device used after surgery or lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia, or asthma. The device helps retrain your lungs to take slow, deep breaths. If you’ve just had surgery or a COPD exacerbation, this may be too painful to do on your own.

When you use a spirometer to reach your breathing goal, you are exercising your lungs. This can keep your alveoli — the air sacs where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged — properly inflated.


Uses and benefits

Using this device teaches you how to breathe slowly and deeply. It can help you build up lung capacity after surgery or when you have an advanced condition, such as lung disease. Using this device helps you take active steps in your recovery and healing process.

An incentive spirometer may be useful for:

A 2019 study found that encouraged use of a spirometer after lung surgery can prevent complications like pneumonia. Other studies have shown that the practice is not helpful after bariatric surgery or weight loss.

The recommended spirometer is different from the spirometer used to check your lung function. The recommended spirometer is a simpler device for home use. It does not measure breath volume or lung function.

Risks and complications

There are very few possible risks or complications with regular use of the recommended spirometer. However, it’s important to stop if you find yourself getting lightheaded.

Rarely, over-aggressive use of spirometry has resulted in atelectasis (pneumothorax) in people with emphysema. You should not use one if:

  • You’ve just had eye surgery, because breathing heavily can harm your eyes
  • You have a collapsed lung
  • You have one aneurysm (bulging blood vessels) in the chest, abdomen, or brain

Before you start

To use the recommended spirometer, you will need the device. They come in a number of models ranging from under $20 to over $100. You may need a prescription if you want to file a claim. If you’ve had surgery, the hospital will likely give you a spirometer to take home.

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Your healthcare provider or respiratory therapist will explain how often and for how long to use a spirometer. Most of the time, spirometry can be done every or two hours. Some healthcare providers recommend using it more or less often.

After surgery, you may need to use your sphygmomanometer as long as you are at risk for lung complications such as pneumonia. That usually means until you are up and moving as much as you did before surgery.

Step by step instructions

Using a spirometer can be a bit complicated at first, but following these steps will help:

  1. Sit upright in a comfortable chair or on the edge of the bed.
  2. Hold the device upright with both hands. Slide the indicator to the desired target level. The indicator is usually on the left side near the mouthpiece. Your healthcare provider can tell you where to start, but 1250 millimeters (mm) is a good playing field. You may need to increase or decrease this level.
  3. Place the mouthpiece in your mouth and seal your lips around it. Try not to block the mouthpiece with your tongue.
  4. Inhale as slowly and deeply as you can. The piston below the indicator will rise inside the column.
  5. When you have reached your ability to fully inhale, remove the mouthpiece and hold your breath for at least three seconds or as long as you can. The piston will drop to the bottom of the column. If you start to feel dizzy or lightheaded, take a break.
  6. Exhale normally, then rest. Cough to clear mucus in the airways if needed.
  7. Reset the indicator to the level you reached during your best efforts.

Repeat these steps 10 to 12 times every waking hour, or as often as recommended by your healthcare provider. If you don’t reach your goal, don’t be discouraged. You will improve with practice and as you heal.

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Tips for cleaning and comfort

After each use, wash the mouthpiece with warm water and soap. Do not reuse a disposable mouthpiece for more than 24 hours.

It can be uncomfortable as you work to strengthen your lungs. If you are using the recommended spirometer after surgery with a chest or abdominal incision, deep breathing is important but can be painful. Some people find it helpful to place a pillow tightly against the incision while taking a deep breath.

Be sure to follow the instructions of your healthcare provider or respiratory therapist. Contact your health care team with any questions or concerns.


Recommended spirometry is a breathing treatment you can do after surgery or with lung conditions. It can help you strengthen your lungs and prevent infections like pneumonia.

You may receive a spirometer when you leave the hospital. A respiratory therapist or other healthcare provider will advise you on how often to use the device and where to set the level for your first use.

To use the device, sit comfortably, set the indicator level, and place the mouthpiece in your mouth with your lips pursed tightly around it. Inhale deeply and slowly. Remove the mouthpiece and hold your breath for three seconds or longer. Exhale slowly. Every time you use the device, try to perfect your last efforts. It may be uncomfortable at first, but with practice you will improve.

A very good word

Compared with other methods used to treat lung disease and prevent surgical complications, dynamic spirometry is easy, quick, and noninvasive. It puts you in charge of part of your wellness journey. If you have any difficulties, talk to your healthcare provider.

frequently asked Questions

  • What is incentive spirometry?

    An incentive spirometer is a hand-held device used to help your lungs recover from surgery or lung disease. The device prompts you to inhale at a slow, steady rate to build strength and lung capacity. An incentive spirometer is different from a diagnostic spirometer used for lung function tests.

  • Who needs an incentive scrap?

    People at risk or having complications from certain lung diseases or surgery using a spirometer are recommended. This includes people who:

  • What are the parts of a dynamic spirometer?

    The recommended manometer is made up of a breathing tube with a mouthpiece, a smaller chamber with a flow indicator, and a larger chamber (pre-marked in millimeters) with a self-moving piston. do. The body of the device is made of clear plastic.

  • How do you use an incentive spirometer?

    An incentive spirometer is typically used every one to two hours with 10 to 15 breaths per session. To use a spirometer recommended:

    1. Sit up straight.
    2. Exhale completely.
    3. Place the mouthpiece in your mouth, creating a tight seal against your lips.
    4. Inhale slowly so that the flow indicator remains in the center of the smaller chamber and the piston rises to the level set by your healthcare provider in the main compartment.
    5. When you have inhaled at full capacity, remove the mouthpiece.
    6. Hold your breath for three to five seconds.
    7. Exhale normally.

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