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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 1-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 once 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°F (38.3°C)

  • 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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