After surgery, you will need to take deep, slow breaths and exhale slowly to expand the small sacs in your lungs and help keep your lungs and air passages free of fluid accumulation.
To promote normal breathing patterns, you must sigh or yawn deeply several times each hour. Your normal breathing pattern can change and become shallower after chest or abdominal surgery, after general anesthesia, or when you are inactive. If this occurs, it is important to try to resume your normal breathing pattern by taking deep breaths. This deep breathing exercise also stimulates the cough reflex to help you cough up secretions.
If you had chest or abdominal surgery, you can splint your incision for comfort while deep breathing and coughing: place your hands flat on top of each other and apply slight pressure to the surgical site. You also can firmly hold a pillow across the surgical site to help you breathe deeply and cough.
Upon your doctor’s order, a respiratory therapist will see you after surgery to teach you how to use an incentive spirometer, a deep-breathing exercise that promotes good lung expansion. Your nurse will remind and encourage you to perform these simple, yet very important breathing exercises.