What is bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP)?
A bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machine is a noninvasive type of ventilation. It is used to help you breathe easier when you have conditions that make breathing difficult. These include
- Obstructive sleep apnea (a serious condition in which your breathing stops and starts repeatedly while you are asleep)
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Obesity hypoventilation syndrome
- Heart conditions such as congestive heart failure (CHF) or coronary artery disease (CAD)
- A neurological or neuromuscular disorder that affects your ability to breathe
- Poor breathing after a medical procedure such as surgery
How does BiPAP work?
For effective breathing, it is necessary to draw air into the lungs through the nose (or mouth). However, in conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea, this ability is hampered. A bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machine works by pushing the pressurized air into your lungs without exerting any strain on you. This reduces the burden on your respiratory muscles and lungs to inhale and exhale.
A BiPAP machine setup consists of a face mask (nasal mask or nasal plugs) connected to a lunch-box-sized machine by a long tube. The machine motor blows air through the tube with a certain amount of required pressure. It is your doctor who decides what amount of pressure your lungs need. The pressurized air enters your body through the mask or plugs. Some BiPAP machines have a humidifier technology embedded in them. This prevents the airways from drying.
Successful usage of BiPAP usually eliminates the need for using a ventilator that makes use of a tube that goes down into your throat without a need for a tracheostomy. A tracheostomy is a procedure to create a hole in your neck to let you breathe through the trachea.
You may feel uncomfortable while using a BiPAP machine for the first time. The feeling will go away once you get accustomed to it.
Make sure that the mask fits you well. You can adjust the settings as mentioned on the instruction booklet of the machine. You must understand the entire setup from a doctor or respiratory therapist first and then try doing it by yourself.
If you feel that you are still facing trouble breathing or swallowing, contact your doctor right away. You may need a mask of another size or some other therapy.
What is the difference between BiPAP and CPAP?
Bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) are types of the same, noninvasive ventilation (NIV). The only difference between their setups is that a CPAP machine can deliver oxygen only at a fixed pressure, whereas varying pressures can be adjusted on the BiPAP machine. This difference helps the doctor decide which setup will be the most appropriate for your use. They will recommend BiPAP instead of CPAP if you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) with more trouble while exhaling than inhaling. BiPAP is also a preferred option for obstructive sleep apnea.
Sometimes, doctors may put on a CPAP machine initially for obstructive sleep apnea. Later, they switch you to a BiPAP machine if you have severe obstructive sleep apnea.
BiPAP machines are more expensive than CPAP machines. Insurance usually covers some part or all of the cost.
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