Discharge Instructions: Using an Incentive Spirometer with Your Tracheostomy Tube

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

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 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

  • 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.

  • Inhale normally. Relax and breathe out.

  • Hold the incentive spirometer upright.

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

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

  • Do this exercise once every hour while you’re awake or as often as your healthcare provider tells you to.

  • 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 the following:

  • 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, smelly, bloody, or thick mucus

  • Vomiting that doesn’t go away

  • Difficulty swallowing

If you ever have trouble breathing, call 911 right away.