Improves Lung Function
Deep breathing is vital to your well being. It expands the small air sacs of your lungs. It also
helps keep your lungs and airways clear. You take deep breaths each hour without being aware
of it. These deep breaths are automatic and occur in the form of sighs and yawns.
There are times when your normal breathing pattern changes. Your breathing becomes more
o You are moving very little.
o You are on bedrest.
o You have pain after surgery.
You may try to avoid deep breathing after surgery in an effort to reduce pain. Taking full, deep
breaths will help prevent lung problems after surgery. Pain medicine can be given to help you
take deep breaths more easily.
Your nurse will explain the deep breathing and coughing exercises you will need to do after
surgery. These are done to improve lung expansion. This helps prevent infection and other lung
problems. You will be shown how to use the incentive spirometer. This is a tool to help you
breathe deeply. Also, coughing is needed when you have secretions in your lungs.
Deep Breathing after Surgery
Practice these steps before surgery:
1. It is best if you are in an upright position. Place your hand on your stomach. Breathe in
deeply and slowly through your nose. Focus on pushing your stomach out as you breathe
in. Hold your breath for a second or two.
2. Breathe out slowly and fully through your mouth.
3. Repeat twice more.
4. Breathe in again, hold your breath, and then cough (if told to do so) from deep in the
lungs (not a shallow throat cough) or repeat step 2. Support (splint) your incision to
decrease pain while coughing.
5. Repeat exercise.
How to Use Your Incentive Spirometer
1. Hold the unit upright, breathe out as usual and place your lips tightly around the
2. Take a deep breath. Inhale enough air to slowly raise the Flow Rate Guide between the
3. Hold the deep breath. Continue to inhale, keeping the guide as high as you can for as
long as you can, or as directed by your nurse or respiratory therapist.
4. Breathe out and relax. Remove the
mouthpiece and breathe out as usual. After
each long, deep breath, take a moment to rest,
relax, and breathe normally. Repeat this
exercise 10 times an hour while you are
awake, every day you are in the hospital or as
directed by your nurse.
5. Cough after using your breathing tool ten
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 2/2016. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4403.