If you have recently been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, or another medical condition associated with sleep deprivation, you may hear your doctor talk about using a BiPAP machine.
What Is a BiPAP Machine
BiPAP stands for Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure. BiPAP machines are used to help patients with respiratory failure to sleep better. Frequently, patients with sleep apnea have a BiPAP machine in their home as a means to acquire a much more peaceful sleep.
How Do BiPAP Machines Work?
The BiPAP was developed in the 1990s as an answer to several problems that the CPAP posed. A CPAP machine stands for continuous positive airway pressure. It works by keeping airways open with continuous pressure. The problem, however, was that because the pressure was continuous, patients would have to exhale against the flow of air. For patients with neuromuscular diseases such as multiple sclerosis, and muscular dystrophy, or sleep apnea patients who required high levels of air pressure, the CPAP was not a viable option.
The BiPAP allows the pressure to be adjusted differently for inhaling and exhaling. Therefore, patients don't have to exhale against excessive amounts of air pressure. This makes the BiPAP a suitable treatment for a variety of respiratory difficulties, not just sleep apnea.
Getting a BiPAP Machine
In the United States, (and most other countries as well) BiPAP Machines are only available by prescription. The controls for the air pressure have to be set according to the patient's needs, which generally requires a sleep study and follow up with a sleep doctor. However, it is important that a patient get a properly fitted mask with their machine and take advantage of the invaluable help a sleep study can provide. Many patients are hesitant to use a PAP machine because it looks so bulky. However, when the mask is fitted properly and adjusted accordingly, most patients find that the benefits far outweigh the discomfort of a bulky mask or machine.
There are also machines that adjust according to the patient throughout the night. However, these are still only available by prescription.
Is Everyone a Good Candidate for a BiPAP Machine?
While a BiPAP does address problems that the CPAP could not by allowing for adjustable pressure settings when exhaling and inhaling, not everyone who has a PAP machine needs a BiPAP machine. People who are good candidates include:
- Patients with neuromuscular diseases such as muscular dystrophy, muscular atrophy disorders, multiple sclerosis, and similar issues.
- Patients with a high CPAP setting often are not able to exhale against the pressure, therefore making bi-level therapy a necessity.
More Information About BiPAP Therapy
The first place that you should always look to discuss BiPAP therapy is with your doctor. As each individual patient's needs are different, only your doctor can truly prescribe the best treatment for you. With that said, an informed patient is the best type of patient. Here are a few additional resources to help you discover more about BiPAP therapy:
- Sleep Restfully is a CPAP machine manufacturer. Use this site to help you compare and contrast the different types of therapies available.
- The Sleep Apnea Association offers this buyer's guide to all types of positive airway pressure systems. It is a very comprehensive comparison of the various treatments available.
- Phillips Respironics is a company that makes BiPAP machines. In particular, they are known for making machines that adjust automatically according to the patients' needs rather than having to be adjusted or reset.