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How To Use an Incentive Spirometer


Updated May 15, 2014

Incentive Spirometer

How to Use an Incentive Spirometer

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An incentive spirometer is a medical device commonly used after surgery or with certain lung conditions such as COPD or asthma.

As it measures how well your lungs fill up with each breath, an incentive spirometer helps exercise your lungs to help keep your alveoli (air sacs where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged) inflated.

The following steps will demonstrate how to properly use an incentive spirometer:

Difficulty: Average
Time Required: 10 times every hour while awake

Here's How:

  1. Sit or lie upright in a comfortable position.
  2. Hold the incentive spirometer upright, with both hands.
  3. Slide the indicator (located in the left-hand column when you are facing the spirometer) to the desired level. For example, start at 1250 milliliters and slowly increase as your treatment progresses.
  4. Place the mouthpiece into your mouth and tightly seal your lips around it.
  5. With your lips tightly sealed around the mouthpiece, breathe in slowly and as deeply as possible. The piston that is resting below the indicator should now rise toward the top of the column.
  6. Hold your breath for at least 3 seconds and allow the piston to fall back to the bottom of the column.
  7. After each set of deep breathing, cough to help clear your airways of mucus.
  8. Rest for a few seconds and repeat steps two through eight, 10 times each hour while you are awake.


  1. If you are coughing and you have an incision, press firmly against the area with a pillow. It will offer additional support and comfort.
  2. Normally, an incentive spirometer is recommended for people who can't walk or get out of bed. If you are recovering from surgery or a COPD exacerbation, you can use your incentive spirometer to keep your lungs inflated.

What You Need

  • Incentive spirometer (may require a presription from your doctor)
  • Pillow (if you have an incision)
  • Comfortable place to sit
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. COPD
  4. Coping With Daily Life
  5. Breathing Techniques
  6. Guide to Using an Incentive Spirometer

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