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 gives you a way to take an active part in your recovery. Because you have a tracheostomy (trach) tube, your incentive spirometer does not have a mouthpiece. Instead, it has a 1-way valve called a T-piece. The opening of the T-piece will fit onto your trach tube. Here’s what you need to know about using this device.

Your healthcare team will show you how to use the device. They will show you how to achieve your targeted volumes. And they will give you other helpful tips to use when blowing in the incentive spirometer. These tips can help to prevent problems such as pain, dizziness, or feeling lightheaded.

Steps for using your incentive spirometer

Woman holding T-piece of incentive spiromenter against tracheostomy tube in neck.

  1. 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.

  2. Inhale normally. Relax and breathe out.

  3. Hold the incentive spirometer upright.

  4. Breathe in slowly and deeply, inhaling as much air as you can. Most spirometers have an indicator to let you know that you are breathing in too fast. If the indicator shows that you are breathing too fast, breathe in more slowly.

  5. Breathe in long enough to keep the balls (or disk) raised for at least 3 seconds.

  6. Do this exercise several times every hour while you’re awake or as often as your healthcare provider tells you to.

  7. If you were also taught coughing exercises, do them regularly as instructed.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or coughing

  • Red, painful, or bleeding stoma

  • Swelling around the trach tube

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Yellow, bad-smelling, bloody, or thick mucus

  • Vomiting that doesn’t stop

  • Trouble swallowing

If you have trouble breathing, call 911 right away.

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