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Incentive Spirometer

An incentive spirometer is used to examine the health of your lungs by measuring inspiratory volume.  This means that an incentive spirometer measures how well you are filling your lungs with each breath.  Though typically used for people recovering from surgery or with conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, an incentive spirometer is used by people who need to exercise their lungs.

The incentive spirometer measures two important numbers:


          • FEV1 (air flow)
          • FEV6 forced vital capacity (air volume)


These numbers are simple expressions of complex processes, somewhat similar as to how blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels measure complex processes.  The numbers obtained for FEV1 and FEV6 by an incentive spirometer are important for both patient and physician to help diagnose asthma, COPD and to monitor the course of respiratory diseases and their response to treatment.

Why Should You Use an Incentive Spirometer?


Deep breathing helps alveoli, the small air sacs deep in your lungs, fully expand.  Though you’re probably not aware of doing it, you normally take many deep breaths every hour.  As well, you probably yawn or sigh numerous times without knowing it.  However, your normal breathing pattern may change.  When you lie in bed for a long time (while recovering from injuries or surgeries, for instance) you tend to take shallow breaths and not cough as often as needed.  You might start taking shallow breaths in an attempt to decrease pain associated with chest surgery or abdominal surgery.  Using an incentive spirometer will help you return to normal breathing rhythms.  By inhaling deeply, you also help mobilize secretions and open areas of the lungs that my have collapsed.

Using an incentive spirometer will mimic natural sighing and yawning and encourage you to take slow, deep breaths.  After major surgeries, it’s important to take your spirometer home with you and continue your breathing exercises at home.  Not only will this help restore your regular breathing rhythm, but it will also help you avoid atlectasis (a collapsed or airless condition of the lung) and pneumonia.

How to Use an Incentive Spirometer


As the pictures on this page attest, an incentive spirometer is a small, hand held device that has a breathing tube and an air chamber.  It’s very easy to use:


          1. Sit up as straight as possible.  If you’re in bed, sit up as far as you can or try to sit on the edge of your bed if possible.

          2. Hold the incentive spirometer upright.

          3. Breathe out normally.

          4. Put the mouthpiece in your mouth and tightly seal your lips around it. 

          5. Breathe in slowly and deeply.  This will raise the yellow piston to the top of the column.  The yellow indicator should be in the little blue box.

          6. Hold your breath as long as possible (at least five seconds), allowing the piston to fall to the bottom of the column.

          7. Position the yellow indicator on the outside of the column to mark your best effort.  This should be your goal to reach with each repetition.

          8. Rest for a few seconds and repeat steps 1-7 at least 10 times an hour.

          9. After each set of 10 breaths, try to cough in order to clear your lungs.  If you have an incision, support your incision by placing a pillow against it.

          10. Once you are able to get out of bed, walk in the hallway and cough heartily.  You may stop using the spirometer unless instructed otherwise.


After evaluating our incentive spirometer inventory, please call us toll free at 1-877-706-4480 for any questions or assistance.