Discharge Instructions: Using an Incentive Spirometer

Discharge Instructions: Using an Incentive Spirometer

An incentive spirometer is a device that helps you do deep breathing exercises. These exercises will help you breathe better and improve the function of your lungs. The incentive spirometer provides a way for you to take an active part in your recovery.

Follow these steps to use your incentive spirometer:

Man in hospital gown sitting with pillow held to abdomen. Other hand is holding incentive spirometer. Spirometer mouthpiece is in man's mouth, arrows show him breathing in.
Deep breathing expands the lungs, aids circulation, and helps prevent pneumonia.

Inhale normally. Relax and breathe out.

  • Place your lips tightly around the mouthpiece.

  • Make sure the device is upright and not tilted.

  • Breathe in slowly and deeply. Fill your lungs with as much air as you can. If you inhale too quickly, the spirometer may make a noise. If you hear this noise, inhale more slowly.

  • Hold your breath long enough to keep the balls (or disk) raised for at least 3 seconds.

  • Perform this exercise every hour while you’re awake or as often as your doctor instructs.

  • If you were also taught coughing exercises, perform them regularly as instructed.


Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.


When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor immediately if you have any of the following:

  • Shortness of breath that is not relieved by your medication

  • Chest pain

  • Fever above 101.0°F   (38.3°C)

  • Brownish, bloody, or smelly sputum

  • Blue lips or fingernails