What is an Incentive Spirometer?

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  • Written By: Lucinda Reynolds
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 28 February 2020
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An incentive spirometer is a medical device that helps measure the amount of air an individual can take into his lungs. These devices are usually made of plastic, and they consist of three parts. The main part is the air chamber, which has a small air hose attached to it. Inside the air chamber is an indicator device that moves up and down with air inhalation and exhalation.

The outside of the air chamber has numbers printed on it. The goal is to inhale enough air to allow the indicator to rise to a specific number. This number will sometimes be determined by the doctor or the respiratory therapist. The higher the indicator rises, the better the lung function.

Good lung function is important, especially when someone is recovering from surgery or an illness. The lungs contain small air sacs called alveoli; when an individual takes a deep breath, the alveoli will expand. When someone takes shallow breaths, the alveoli cannot expand completely. This can cause these small air sacs to fill with fluid, and make it possible for bacteria to grow deep in the lungs. This bacteria can produce pneumonia.

Incentive spirometers are used frequently in hospitals to help prevent pneumonia after surgery. When a patient has surgery, he will sometimes avoid taking deep breaths because it hurts to do so. An incentive spirometer can help the patient see how well he is breathing, and encourage him to take deeper breaths.


The incentive spirometer can also help patients who have chronic lung disease. Anyone who can benefit from deep breathing exercises can be aided by an incentive spirometer. These small medical devices are portable and simple to use.

Before using an incentive spirometer, the patient should be sitting upright in a comfortable position. He should then exhale normally and place his lips around the mouthpiece of the device, being careful not to obstruct the mouthpiece with his tongue. The patient should then inhale slowly and try to get the indicator to rise to the pre-determined number on the air chamber.

It is important that an incentive spirometer be used at least five times each hour. Deep breathing will help the patient to cough up any type of mucus that has settled deep within the lungs. This action is critical for preventing pneumonia. This medical device can also be used at home after discharge from the hospital to help maintain clear lungs.


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Post 2

Using an incentive spirometer is hard enough for adults to use after surgery, but it can really be hard to encourage your kids to use it.

After my daughter had surgery, she hated using it. I tried everything I could think of to encourage her and reward her when she was able to get it as high as she needed to.

I even ended up making an incentive spirometer chart and putting stickers on it when she met her goals for the day. Of course these had other fun activities associated with them that she could enjoy when she got out of the hospital.

It did get easier the more she used it and when there was an appealing, tangible reward waiting for her, it gave her some motivation to keep at it.

Post 1

After I had major surgery, there was in incentive spirometer sitting beside my hospital bed that was supposed to be used many times throughout the day.

I hurt so bad and taking a deep breath was even more painful that the last thing I felt like doing was blowing into this spirometer.

Every time the nurse came in the room she would ask me how many times I had used it. Sometimes she would not leave the room until she saw me use it.

I know that it was for my own good and realize the importance of it, but I began to really dislike having that sit by my bed all day long.

My nurses and doctor had incentive spirometer goals for me to reach each day and even though this was something I didn't feel like doing, I figured the sooner I met their goals, the sooner I would be able to go home.

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