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Online ISSN 1827-1596
Faculty of Medicine and Health, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden
Cardiac surgery patients often develop a restrictive pulmonary impairment and gas exchange abnormalities in the early postoperative period. Chest physiotherapy is routinely prescribed in order to reduce or prevent these complications. Besides early mobilization, positioning and shoulder girdle exercises, various breathing exercises have been implemented as a major component of postoperative care. A variety of deep breathing maneuvres are recommended to the spontaneously breathing patient to reduce atelectasis and to improve lung function in the early postoperative period. Different breathing exercises are recommended in different parts of the world, and there is no consensus about the most effective breathing technique after cardiac surgery. Arbitrary instructions are given, and recommendations on performance and duration vary between hospitals. Deep breathing exercises are a major part of this therapy, but scientific evidence for the efficacy has been lacking until recently, and there is a lack of trials describing how postoperative breathing exercises actually should be performed.
The purpose of this review is to provide a brief overview of postoperative breathing exercises for patients undergoing cardiac surgery via sternotomy, and to discuss and suggest an optimal technique for the performance of deep breathing exercises.