Chest Health and ICOUGH

Having surgery puts you at risk of chest infections which in turn can prolong your recovery.

Help combat the effects of a general anaesthetic and avoid chest-related infections by keeping your lungs ‘big’ and clean. You can do this using the steps of ICOUGH.

Incentive spirometer

An incentive spirometer encourages you to take deep breaths. This re-opens the bottom of your lungs and encourages the movement of mucus out of the lungs. This keeps your lungs ‘big.’

If you need an incentive spirometer, it will be given to you during your pre-operative assessment. This way you can practice before your surgery. For instructions on how to you the incentive spirometer please visit our Enhanced Recovery Surgery School.

Coughing and deep breathing

After surgery take deep breaths and cough properly to help keep your lungs clean. You will be encouraged to practice deep breathing cycles at least four times a day. For information you can visit our Enhanced Recovery Surgery School or download the information here.

Oral healthcare

Good oral healthcare helps to keep your lungs clear from bacteria. We encourage you to clean your teeth or dentures thoroughly at least two times a day after your surgery. We also encourage you to use a mouthwash regularly.


It is important for you and your family to take an active role in your recovery. It is important therefore that you understand why we are asking you to participate in these activities. If you need more information you can visit our Enhanced Recovery Surgery School or ask one of our members of staff.

Get out of bed

As we mentioned in the mobilisation section, to reduce your chances of getting a chest infection, we encourage you to mobilise as soon as possible after your surgery. We understand that this can be a daunting task when you do it for the first time; however it is safe and very important. We will make sure your pain is well controlled and we will be there to support and reassure you.

Head of bed elevated

We would like you to try and sit out of bed for at least six hours every day. When you are in bed it is important that you continue to remain in an upright, seated position. This helps your breathing. Keep the head of the bed elevated between 30-45 degrees.

Last updated: March 2023