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Home    Pre-Op Patient Guide    Post-op exercises & activity
Post-op exercises & activity

Postoperative exercises are extremely important; activity stimulates circulation and deep breathing speeds recovery. Don’t wait to be prompted – ask your caregiver if you can begin activity.

Remember that you are part of the health care team and can ask for help if you need to move around. Some exercises you can do on your own, such as deep breathing and coughing.

For Your Lungs
Deep breathing and coughing help prevent pneumonia after surgery. Take a slow, deep breath and hold for a second or two, then push the air out of your lungs with a deep strong cough. For abdominal or chest surgeries, place a pillow over your incision and apply gentle pressure to this area as you cough. This helps to splint or support your incision and lessen your discomfort. You may be asked to use an incentive spirometer. This is a small plastic device that encourages you to breathe effectively. Your preadmission nurse will instruct you on the use of the spirometer if indicated for your surgery.

How to Use an Incentive Spirometer

  1. Sit on the edge of your bed if possible, or sit up as far as you can in bed.
  2. Hold the incentive spirometer in an upright position.
  3. Place the mouthpiece in your mouth and seal your lips tightly around it.
  4. Breathe in slowly and as deeply as possible, raising the piston toward the top of the column. The coach indicator should be in the blue outlined area.
  5. Hold your breath as long as possible (at least five seconds). Exhale and allow the piston to fall to the bottom of the column.
  6. Rest for a few seconds and repeat steps one through five at least 10 times every hour when you are awake.
  7. Position the indicator on the left side of the spirometer to show your best effort. Use the indicator as a goal to work toward during each repetition.
  8. After each set of 10 deep breaths, practice coughing to be sure your lungs are clear. If you have an incision, support your incision when coughing by placing a pillow firmly against it.
  9. Once you are able to get out of bed, walk in the hallway and cough well. You may stop using the incentive spirometer unless otherwise instructed by your health care provider.

For Your Circulation
Walking will help you recover faster and return to normal. Be sure to have help the first few times you get out of bed and begin walking. Don’t overdo it. Gradually increase your activity.

Turn from side to side and/or side to back, unless this is not allowed with your surgery. Change positions every one to two hours – it helps your lungs and your circulation when you move around.

The risk of forming a blood clot increases whenever the movement of blood is sluggish or if the blood vessel is diseased or damaged. To help prevent this from occurring you should do the following exercises every one to two hours when awake.

Push your toes toward the foot of the bed. Relax both feet. Pull your toes toward your chin. Relax both feet.

Make circle with both ankles. Bend each knee alternately, sliding your foot up along the bed. Relax.

Your doctor may order:

Sequential compression devices (SCDS) have plastic sleeves that fit around your legs and a motor that attaches to the sleeves with tubing. This motor inflates and deflates the sleeves, which increase the blood flow in your legs.

Foot pumps are a sleeve that fits around your foot. This device has a motor that attaches to the sleeves with tubing. This motor inflates and deflates the sleeve which increases the blood flow. The sleeves can be removed when you walk, bathe or leave your room for tests. It is important to reapply the sleeves when you return to bed.

TEDS (special elastic hosiery)

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