The incentive spirometer measures two important numbers:

How to Use an Incentive Spirometer

A smaller piece in the incentive spirometer looks like a ball or disc.
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  • An incentive spirometer is most commonly used after surgery. People who are at an increased risk of airway or breathing problems may also use one. These include people who smoke or have lung disease. This may also include people who are not active or cannot move well.

    Sit up as straight as possible. Do not bend your head forward or backward. Hold the incentive spirometer in an upright position. Place the target pointer to the level that you need to reach. Exhale (breathe out) normally and then do the following:

  • In keeping with the concept that exercise test is preferable to measurements done at rest in assessing disability and perception of dyspnoea, and that a test that is cheap and easy to perform has many advantages, we developed the idea of using an incentive spirometry in asthmatic patients to score the maximal breathing capacity (MBC) by repetitive inspiratory efforts within a set time (3 minutes), and breathlessness perceived at the end of the inspiratory exercise-converted into a score dependent on MBCas an index of perception of dyspnoea (POD). The objective of this present study was to provide preliminary validation of this tool (Three-Minute Respiratory Exerciser Test, 3MRET) for use in asthmatic patients with regards to its reliability to differentiate between disease severities, its correlation with Forced Expiratory Volume in One Second (FEV1), its reproducibility, and its responsiveness to the effect of bronchodilation, and finally, in how well it compared with the Six-Minute Walking Test (6MWT). Normal healthy subjects were added for comparison.

    This test scored the maximal breathing capacity (MBC) by repetitive inspiratory efforts within three minutes, based on an incentive spirometry, Triflo II (Tyco Healthcare, Mansfield, USA) [] that was routinely used in our hospital for the purpose of chest physiotherapy, and scored the perception of dyspnoea (POD) at the end of this three-minute period. By repeated inspiratory effort, patients were asked to get as many balls as possible to reach the top of each of the three columns (A, B and C) within three minutes. Columns A, B and C required flow rates of 600 ml/min, 900 ml/ min and 1200 ml/min respectively to bring the balls to reach the top, and as such, required the generation of sufficient inspiratory effort on the part of the subject to achieve this. When all three balls reached their column tops, it indicated that the subject was able to generate inspiratory airflow of 1200 ml/ml. When only two balls reached their column tops, it indicated that the subject generated 900 ml/min. When only one ball reached their column tops, it indicated that the subject could only generate 600 ml/min. The cumulative times of three balls, two balls or one ball reaching the column top became an index of maximal breathing capacity (MBC score), and the formula used was as follows: MBC score= (number of times that all three balls reached the top of columns) x 2 + (number of times that two balls reached the column top) x 1.5 + (number of times that only one ball reached the column top) x 1.

    Gosselink R, Schrever K, Cops P, Witvrouwen H, De Leyn P, Troosters T, Lerut A, Deneffe G, Decramer M. Incentive spirometry does not enhance recovery after thoracic surgery. Crit Care Med. 2000 Mar;28(3):679-83. PubMed

  • Freitas ER, Soares BG, Cardoso JR, Atallah AN. Incentive spirometry for preventing pulmonary complications after coronary artery bypass graft. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007;(3):CD004466. [63 references] PubMed

    An incentive spirometer (IS) is a device that measures how deeply you can inhale (breathe in). It helps you take slow, deep breaths to expand and fill your lungs with air. This helps prevent lung problems, such as pneumonia. The IS is made up of a breathing tube, an air chamber, and an indicator. The breathing tube is connected to the air chamber and has a mouthpiece at the end. The indicator is found inside the device.

What is an incentive spirometer

The authors set out to understand how incentive spirometry stacks up against other procedures in preventing these negative outcomes by conducting a review of recent scholarly articles on the subject.