Prevent lung complications after surgery with aCOUGH

Training your lung muscles before and after surgery can reduce your risk of getting a lung infection (pneumonia) by 50 per cent.

It can also reduce your risk of other complications, including:

  • lung collapse and reduced lung volume
  • reduced ability to clear mucus from your lungs
  • a weakened ability to cough, also important in helping you get rid of mucus.

About aCOUGH

To remind you of simple but effective tasks you can do before and after surgery to reduce your risk of complications, just think aCOUGH (a word formed from the first letters of the following phrases):

Active deep breathing

Doing deep breathing exercises once every hour you are awake helps keep your lungs healthy. When doing these exercises, be as upright as possible, sitting up in bed or on a chair. Follow the steps below.

Before surgery, do these exercises twice a day.

After surgery, do them once every hour you are awake.

  1. Take a relaxed breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Do this for 30 seconds.
  2. Take a deep breath until your chest feels full and tight. Hold for three seconds and breathe out. Repeat five times.
  3. Repeat step 1.
  4. Repeat step 2.
  5. Take a deep breath, then huff (actively breathe out as if trying to fog a mirror) and cough.
Cough

After your deep breathing exercises, take a big cough to help keep your lungs clear.

To support you as you cough, press gently across your surgical wound with a rolled-up towel, pillow or your hands.

Oral care

Brushing your teeth and using mouthwash twice daily helps keep your mouth free from germs.

Ask your treating team for help if needed.

Understand your surgery and recovery

It is important you and your family take an active role in your recovery from surgery.

Talk with your treating team about what you can do to help.

Get out of bed

Being upright and out of bed is the best position to re-expand your lungs again after surgery.

Sit out of bed in a chair and walk three times every day after your surgery. Ask your physiotherapist or nurse for help to get started.

This also helps with pain management and improves your circulation, muscle strength and mental health.

Head of bed elevated

Elevating (raising) the head of your bed to at least of 30 to 45 degrees helps keep your lungs expanded and reduces your risk of breathing complications.

Ask you nurse if you are not sure if your head is high enough.

When to do aCOUGH

Before your surgery

Do your deep breathing and coughing exercises twice every day before your surgery to help strengthen your lungs and breathing muscles. As you will need to do these exercises as soon as you wake after surgery, it makes sense to learn how to do them now.

After your surgery

From the moment you wake up from your surgery, it is important to complete the active cycle of breathing exercises every hour you are awake. Complete the other aCOUGH steps as advised above.

Watch the aCough video

If you have printed this information and can't see the video, please view it at FSH.health.wa.gov.au/aCOUGH

More information

Contact the LifeFit-SurgFit physiotherapist on 6152 8862 between 9am and 3pm, Monday to Friday.

Get yourself fit for surgery

Visit LifeFit-SurgFit for other simple tools you can integrate into your lifestyle so you are in the best possible health for surgery.