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Discharge Instructions: Using an Incentive Spirometer with Your Tracheostomy Tube

An incentive spirometer is a device that helps you do deep breathing exercises. These exercises will help you breathe better and improve the function of your lungs. The incentive spirometer provides a way for you to take an active part in your recovery. Because you have a tracheostomy (trach) tube, your incentive spirometer has a one-way valve called a T-piece instead of a mouthpiece. The opening of the T-piece will fit onto your trach tube. Here’s what you need to know about using this device.

Follow these steps to use your incentive spirometer:

Woman with tip of incentive spirometer inserted into tracheostomy tube. Arrows show her breathing in.

  • Fit the T-piece onto your tracheostomy tube. Breathe normally. The T-piece should not make it hard for you to breathe through your trach tube.

  • Exhale normally. Relax and breathe out.

  • Hold the incentive spirometer upright.

  • Breathe in slowly and deeply, inhaling as much air as you can. If you inhale too quickly, the spirometer may make a noise. If you hear this noise, inhale more slowly.

  • Hold your breath long enough to keep the balls (or disk) raised for at least 3 seconds.

  • Perform this exercise every hour while you’re awake or as often as your doctor instructs.

  • If you were also taught coughing exercises, perform them regularly as instructed.

 

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or coughing

  • Red, painful, or bleeding stoma

  • Swelling around the trach tube

  • Fever above 101.0°F

  • Yellow, smelly, bloody, or thick mucus

  • Vomiting that doesn’t go away

Note: If you ever have trouble breathing, call 911 (emergency) right away.

 

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