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Post-Operative Respiratory Care

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Post operative respiratory care means taking care of your child's lungs after surgery. Extra care is needed at this time because pain, medications, and changes from surgery may decrease the lung's breathing ability. Good respiratory care may speed your child's recovery.

Things you can do

After surgery, your child may be asked to drink fluids to keep the mucous thin so he/she can cough it up.

Encourage your child to cough and deep breathe every two to four hours. This is done by teaching him/her to breathe deeply four times in a row and then coughing after the last deep breath in.

An incentive spirometer is a breathing toy used by older children to exercise the lungs. The child must suck in enough air to move the white ball. The movement of the ball helps the child see how well he/she is doing.

Encourage your child to take slow, deep breaths when using the incentive spirometer. If possible have your child hold his breath for three seconds after he/she gets the ball up.

Encourage your child to be as active as allowed. Your child will be asked to move around in bed and to sit up as much as he/she can. The head of the bed can be raised to help your child breathe better. Turning your child from side to side helps to prevent secretions from staying in one place in the lungs. Sometimes chest physiotherapy (CPT) may be ordered for your child. Your doctor or nurse will tell you if the head of your child's bed can be raised and if he/she can turn side to side.

Encourage your child to get out of bed and walk as soon as allowed by the doctor. At first it will be just a few steps to the chair or to the bathroom. Later, he/she may walk in the hallways and to the playroom.

Special Note

Crying is another way to exercise the lungs. We do not want to make your child cry or allow him/her to be in pain; but remember that crying helps your child to breathe deeply and expands the lungs.

Special Instructions

Your child's lungs need extra care after surgery. You and the nurse will help your child to do the following:

  • Drink ___________ ml fluid every 8 hours (30 ml = 1 ounce)
  • Use the incentive spirometer every _________ hours
  • Cough and deep breathe every _________ hours
  • Change positions every ________ hours
  • Get out of bed by __________
  • Chest Physiotherapy (CPT) every _________ hours

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 12/05