Sleep Apnea, COPD and CPAP/BiPAP Machines
Conditions such as sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and acute respiratory failure are sometimes treated with CPAP— continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP. CPAP machine involves using a mask over the nose, mouth (or both) during the night. A flow of pressurized air is blown through the mask to keep the lungs ventilated.
Some patients, however, are not able to follow the CPAP treatment because of shortness of breath. In other words, they find it difficult to breathe out against the continuous positive pressure of the air in CPAP. The alternative is a bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP ).
While CPAP provides one pressure, BiPAP provides two:
- Higher pressure during inhalation (IPAP)
- Lower pressure during exhalation (EPAP)
BiPAP has different benefits, depending on the condition of the patient. A patient with chronic respiratory failure, for example, benefits from the BiPAP because the IPAP unloads the diaphragm and makes breathing easier. In the same way, patients with obstructive sleep apnea adapt better to the IPAP and EPAP settings of BiPAP and achieve a better sleep.
Comfort is an important factor during the use of CPAP and BiPAP because it improves compliance—the number of hours per night that the device is used. The longer CPAP and BiPAP are used every night, the better results a patient will obtain. At the beginning of the treatment, some people may find the mask uncomfortable, but they must keep trying because it takes some time to get used to it. Fortunately, there are different types of mask available that will fit their particular face shape.
CPAP and BiPAP are only for treatment—they do not cure respiratory problems. Depending on the condition, a cure may require surgery or other medical interventions. CPAP and BiPAP, however, can eliminate the complications of respiratory problems, while avoiding high-risk interventions.