What is BiPAP Machine?
BiPAP stands for BiLevel Positive Airway Pressure, and is very similar in function and design to a CPAP machine. Unlike a CPAP machine which delivers a constant standard pressure, a BiPAP machine has two pressure settings. One pressure is for inhalation (IPAP) and a lower pressure for exhalation (EPAP). When you breathe in, the pressure will increase to the prescribed amount, and lower during exhalation. Many people find tolerating PAP therapy easier with a BiLevel machine, and have been prescribed this specific therapy by their physician. Other names for BiLevel machine include BiPAP and VPAP.
What is a BiPAP Machine and What Is It Used For?
Breathing difficulties when sleeping not only affect your quality of life, they can also be extremely dangerous to your health. Fortunately, for those who suffer with breathing difficulties there are a range of machines available to help you breathe easier.
If you suffer from sleep apnea, your physician may have prescribed some type of ‘PAP’ therapy to help with your breathing difficulties. You may recall hearing about CPAP and APAP machines, but there are also BPAP machines. BPAP stands for ‘bilevel positive airway pressure’.
So how are these PAP modalities different from each other? Similar to CPAP treatments, a BiPAP machine, referred to in this post as a BPAP machine, has been specifically designed to stop the airways from collapsing, thus allowing users to breathe regularly and easily during sleep. A BPAP machine is like a ventilator, designed to help with breathing.
Let’s begin by pointing out that “BiPAP” in our heading is a trade name, while the device itself is known as a BPAP machine.
In this post we’ll take a closer look at what a BPAP machine is, how it works, and what people can expect when using one.
Explaining the Difference between CPAP and BiPAP Therapy
Both BPAP and CPAP machines deliver positive air pressure (PAP) using a device connected to a tube and face mask. They’re often used to treat the same conditions and the side effects are often the same. However, the difference between these two machines is the way air pressure is delivered.
The major difference between a CPAP and a BiPAP machine is that there are two air pressure settings on a BiPAP machine – the first setting is pressure for inhalation (IPAP) and the second is a lower pressure for exhalation (EPEP) – whereas a CPAP machine delivers a continuous level of air pressure.
BiPAP alleviates one of the more common complaints by sleepers who use a CPAP machine, which is that they find it difficult to breathe against the steady singular pressure. Some patients who use CPAP machines at higher pressures find it quite challenging trying to exhale. When patients use a BiPAP machine it makes it easier for them to breathe; this is because the machine reduces pressure during exhalation, which means the patient is able to exhale more easily, thus breathing becomes more comfortable for the patient.
CPAP machines are usually the first choice for treating patients with obstructive sleep apnea. This is typically an effective treatment because the airways are held open by continuous pressure. In this instance there’s no requirement for two pressures.
BPAP machines are used when CPAP therapy is either not well tolerated or the CPAP machine is not working. The BPAP machine delivers a higher air pressure when inhaling and a reduced pressure when exhaling. This type of treatment can be more comfortable and more effective for some patients with obstructive sleep apnea.
The American College of Physicians’ preferred treatment for some patients with COPD is a BPAP machine, the reason being that some people appear to have trouble exhaling – they find it difficult to breathe out against the continuous pressure of a CPAP machine.
Because the BPAP machine delivers two pressures, there can be more difference between the IPAP (inhalation) and EPAP (exhalation), thus the machine is able to assist with taking deeper breaths. This makes the BPAP machine more effective for patients facing breathing difficulties caused by ALS and other neurological conditions like muscular dystrophy.
Some types of BPAP machines come with a timer; this ensures the machine continues delivering pressure if the patient is too weak to breathe or even if the patients stops breathing. These are a great device for those suffering with severe neurologic conditions and central sleep apnea.
Notable Features of a BPAP Machine
- A BPAP is a type of non-invasive ventilation therapy (NIV) designed to facilitate easier and more comfortable breathing.
- BPAP machines can be used either at home or in hospitals.
- Small and compact, home BPAP machines are about the size of a toaster. The device has a tube that’s connected to a face mask which is worn comfortably over your nose and mouth.
- BPAP machines are similar to other ventilators in that pressure is used to push air into your lungs. With a choice of settings, the ventilator opens the lungs, thus increasing the blood’s oxygen level and reducing carbon dioxide.
- They have two air pressure settings, thus the name ‘bilevel’.
- The BPAP machine delivers more air pressure when you breathe in. This is also referred to as inspiratory positive airway pressure (IPAP)
- The BPAP machine reduces air pressure when you breathe out. This is also referred to as expiratory airway pressure (EPAP)
- Some types of BPAP machines use a programmed timer to maintain a specific number of breaths per minute.
Why Do Some People Require a BPAP Machine?
Using a BPAP machine at home can be very helpful if you have a medical condition that affects your breathing. You may need one of these machines if you have any of the following conditions –
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
- Obesity hypoventilation syndrome (OHS)
- Poor breathing following an operation
- Asthma flare-up
- Neurological disease that prevents easy breathing
- Central sleep apnea
- ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)
BPAP machines are often used by hospital staff when there’s a breathing emergency. They’re also often used instead of intubation because it’s not so invasive. For example: A doctor may feel that a BPAP machine can be used instead of intubation when treating respiratory failure due to pneumonia, pulmonary edema, or COPD flare-up. BPAP machines are also used for patients in hospital to ensure proper breathing after intubation has been removed.
COVID-19: In 2020 an article was released suggesting that BPAP ventilators could be effective therapy for people who experience moderate breathing problems caused by COV-D-19. At this point in time, however, there’s very little published data on this so best practices are still evolving.
What To Expect When Using a BiPAP Machine
If it’s been recommended that you need BPAP therapy for assisted breathing, your machine will be set up for you by a respiratory specialist. The machine will be calibrated and adjusted according to your prescribed treatment. You may be asked to use your machine only when you sleep, or all of the time or some of the time, depending on your health condition. Make sure you use the machine as per your healthcare provider or Doctor’s instructions.
You may feel a little uncomfortable when first using your BiPAP machine. Wearing a mask and feeling the flow of air will feel a little strange, but you will get used to it over time. If you continue having problems with the machine make sure you speak to your healthcare provider because it may be that the pressure settings require an adjustment.
The BPAP machine noise will be rhythmic and soft, but if you find it bothersome consider wearing earplugs. If the noise is quite loud, you should check with the medical supplier to ensure the machine is working correctly.
Make yourself familiar with the parts of your BPAP machine, which includes a tabletop unit with a motor, tube, and mask. Understand how they all fit together and how the machine works. Ensure you mask and tubing are cleaned as required.
Possible Side-Effects From Using A BiPAP Machine
Your BPAP machine is very safe and has a lower risk of complications when compared with other types of ventilator support, like a tracheostomy. The most common problem patients experience with their BPAP machine is that the facemask is too tight. Other risks and side effects may include –
- Skin irritation from the mask
- General Discomfort
- Mild stomach bloating
- Nasal dryness
- Mouth dryness
- Leaking mask, resulting in a drop in air pressure
- Runny nose
- Sinus pain or congestion
Discuss any symptoms you may be experiencing with your healthcare provider. Adjustments can often be made to alleviate side effects, like congestion, and nasal and mouth dryness.
If the mask that comes with your BPAP machine is too tight on your face, causing indentation and/or redness, try loosening the mask. Alternatively, you may want to try a mask liner; however we suggest trying a different style of mask or a different size of mask.
Make sure the mask is not too loose on your face. This may cause the pressure that’s required for the machine to work effectively to reduce. Check the edges of your mask to ensure air is not escaping. You may have a machine that displays a ‘mask leak’ warning – this will help ensure your mask is working effectively.
Ensure the tubing and mask are kept clean to reduce the risk of infection.
Both CPAP and BiPAP machines are non-invasive forms of therapy for people who suffer with sleep apnea. Both machines deliver pressurized air to the patient’s airways. Air pressure prevents the throat muscles from collapsing and acts as a splint by reducing obstructions. Both machines give patients the ability to breathe regularly and comfortably throughout the night.
A BiPAP machine is used to treat chronic conditions that affect a patient’s breathing; it delivers two levels of air pressure whereas CPAP machines can only be set to a single pressure. A BiPAP machine will be recommended if you have a specific type of sleep apnea, COPD, neurological condition like ALS, or obesity-hypoventilation syndrome
How is a BiPAP machine different from a CPAP machine?
BiPAP machines and BiLevel machines have two different pressures, one is for inhaling and the other is for exhaling whereas CPAP machines are only programmed with one single pressure. Moreover, BiPAP machines are used to treat central sleep apnea, complex sleep apnea, and COPD.
Can oxygen be used with a BiPAP machines?
Yes, a BiPAP machine can be used with oxygen. As with CPAP machines, you will receive oxygen through the mask. Either your mask may contain a built-in adapter or you’ll have to buy a separate adapter for connecting the oxygen tube to the mask.