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Laura Castricone

What exactly is an Incentive Spirometer? 

As a hospital protocol, a patient will be put on IST (incentive spirometry therapy) after any type of surgery. The purpose of this therapy is to avoid pneumonia post-surgery. After surgery, most patients are bed-bound for days if not weeks. This takes its toll on the patient’s muscular, cardiac, and respiratory systems. Here we are going to address the respiratory system.

Important Things for Patient

After any surgical procedure, the patient must undergo a ‘recovery period’ when the body needs to adjust to the changes and the consequences of surgery. One of those is pneumonia. Between being non-ambulatory, anesthesia, post-intubation, and drugs on board, many patients harbor secretions in the lower portions of the lungs. If these secretions are not “cleared” by coughing, the mucus can become infected and cause a pneumonia. The pneumonia can be life-threatening, or at the very least, can prolong recovery and the hospital stay. Nosocomial (hospital-acquired) pneumonia is quite common! So, how does IST help this situation?


What does a spirometer do for your lungs?

Incentive Spirometry is a simple way to help patients expand their lungs and, in the process, clear secretions. It is a plastic device with chambers and floating balls that has graduated marks for goals of the patient. The “marks” are in milliliters and correspond to the patient’s lung capacity. The device also has a moveable arrow to set goals for the patient.

How can you reduce the risk of Atelectasis?

The patient must INHALE through the mouthpiece and try to raise the balls in the chambers or the gauge in the range of the “goal” that has been set. In the beginning, this goal may be difficult to achieve or maintain, but the purpose is to keep doing the exercise until the patient can keep the balls/gauge in the desired range. This helps open the very lower portions of the lungs, thus avoiding an atelectasis.

Atelectasis is a condition in which the small air sacs (usually in the very lower portions of the lungs) collapse. Once collapsed, it takes effort to recruit them again. Less the air sacs working, the less the breathing capacity. This is where IST can be most effective.

Inhalation exercises open up more and more of the collapsed air sacs. Breathing becomes easier and a potential infection may be staved off. The patient can cough more and expel any mucus that may have been harboring in these air sacs.

Importance of Incentive Spirometry

IST is not limited to hospital use. The patient will be released with their own IST to continue therapy at home. The more often the patient performs these inhalations, the faster they will feel better respiratory-wise. It is recommended to be done every few hours when home and at least ten repetitions. In the hospital, it is recommended to be done every hour while awake.

Surgery is complicated enough. It is simple to keep sufficient lung health during this time by following the advice of your health care provider post-surgery and upon discharge. The breathing exercises are easy, and the IST is an inexpensive tool to help your recovery.


HPFY has IST devices you can buy easily and conveniently. They do not require a prescription and can be used by anyone who needs to increase their lung capacity, or anyone who may suffer from a lung disease and needs helping clearing secretions and recruiting more alveoli in the lungs.


Our range of IST devices includes : Carefusion Airlife Volumetric Incentive Spirometer, Vive Lung Exerciser, Smith’s Medical Portex Flow-based Spirometer (adult and pediatric) Voldyne 2500ml Incentive Spirometer, Hudson RCI Air Ease Incentive Deep Breathing Exerciser


Disclaimer: All content found on our website, including images, videos, infographics and text were created solely for informational purposes. Our content should never be used for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions. Content shared on our websites is not meant to be used as a substitute for advice from a certified medical professional. Reliance on the information provided on our website as a basis for patient treatment is solely at your own risk. We urge all our customers to always consult a physician or a certified medical professional before trying or using a new medical product.


HPFY Laura Castricone

Laura Castricone

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My name is Laura Castricone and I am a Certified Respiratory Therapist. I have been practicing in the state of Connecticut since 1992. I have worked in several aspects of respiratory care ...

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