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Deep breathing after surgery

After surgery it is important to take an active role in your recovery. One way to take an active role is by doing deep breathing exercises.

Deep breathing keeps your lungs healthy while you heal. Many patients feel weak and sore after surgery, and taking big breaths can be uncomfortable.

If you do not practice deep breathing after surgery, you may develop lung problems, like pneumonia.

A device called an incentive spirometer can help you take deep breaths correctly. If you do not have this device, you can still practice deep breathing on your own.

How to Breathe Deeply

  • Sit upright. It may help to sit at the edge of the bed with your feet dangling over the side. If not, raise the head of your bed as high as you can.
  • You may need to hold a pillow tightly over your stomach. This will help with some of the discomfort.
  • Take a few normal breaths, then take a slow deep breath in.
  • Hold your breath for about 2 - 5 seconds.
  • Gently and slowly breathe out through your mouth. Make an “O” shape with your lips as you blow out, like blowing out birthday candles.
  • Repeat 10 - 15 times or as your doctor prescribes.
  • Do these deep-breathing exercises as directed by your doctor or nurse.

Hints

  • Your nurse or respiratory therapist may ask you to cough. Use the pillow held tightly to your stomach to help with any pain.
  • Ask your nurse if you can have any pain medicine prior to doing deep breathing. This will also help with any pain.

Update Date: 3/3/2012

Updated by: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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