St. Luke's B.E.S.T.

How To Use Your Incentive Spirometer


Kelly Merluzzi, RN, Clinical Coordinator of St. Luke’s Surgical Optimization Program explains how to use your incentive spirometer.

  1. Attach the mouthpiece and flexible tubing to the outlet on the right side of the spirometer base.

  2. Sit straight and do not bend your head forward or backward. Holding the handle in your left hand, insert the mouthpiece in your mouth so it sits comfortably inside your lips and in the front of your teeth.

  3. With the mouth piece in your mouth, breathe out normally. Then, close your lips tightly around the mouthpiece and inhale slowly and deeply through your mouth. As you inhale, try to keep the small indicator on the right side in between the two indicator arrows while also trying to move the piston up the chamber as far as you can. Continue to move the piston as high in the chamber as you can, while keeping the indicator between the two arrows on the right (goal range). This will feel like sucking a thick milkshake through a straw.

    If the indicator doesn’t stay between the two arrows you are either breathing too fast or too slow.

  4. When you cannot inhale any further, remove the mouthpiece and hold your breath as long as possible, or for at least 3 seconds. Then exhale slowly and allow the piston to fall to the bottom of the column. This may make you cough which is normal and helps to open your lungs.

  5. Move the marker on the left side of the spirometer to show your B.E.S.T. effort. Use this as a goal to work toward during each slow deep breath.

Each day you use your incentive spirometer you should see improvement in how deep a breath you can take. Remember to put your marker to the highest level the piston reached on your incentive spirometer. After each set of 10 deep breaths, cough to be sure your lungs are clear. If you start feeling dizzy slow your breathing down and give yourself more time with normal breaths between deep breaths. Be sure to clean your mouthpiece with soap and water after each use.

When able, take frequent walks and practice coughing to keep your lungs clear.

Remember to do 10 breaths, 4 times a day or more if you can and be sure to log everything in your breathing log.