BiPAP is a machine that allows the passage of more air into the lungs, for those who are affected by breathing problems. BiPAP which stands for bi-level positive airway pressure, is used for people who are affected by sleep apnea or COPD. Those who are affected by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) usually face difficulty breathing. On the other hand, those who are affected by sleep apnea face a collapse of the upper airway that leads to continuous stops in breathing. They tend to wake up suddenly due to this problem, and this further results in several other health conditions. To tackle these conditions, the use of a BiPAP is helpful. However, there are certain settings that need to be made, to ensure that its air pressure and the amount of air you breathe in are right.
The BiPAP is an adaptation of CPAP or continuous positive airway pressure. The difference between CPAP and BiPAP is that former has only one outlet for inhaling and exhaling, whereas the latter has two outlets, with different air pressure levels while inhaling and exhaling. A lot of people who have not benefited from CPAP have found the BiPAP more useful.
Settings and Use
The machine has a mask, that is used for the purpose of inhaling and exhaling. The air that is produced for the purpose of inhaling is set at a particular pressure. This pressure aids breathing and does not require the person to put in extra effort to breathe normally. It is great for those who are affected by heart conditions or neuromuscular diseases. A BiPAP is prescribed after conducting a respiratory test, that checks for your lung capacity. Apart from this, a separate level of air pressure is also set for exhaling.
The initial settings involve attaching two hoses that are a part of it, to the device that will provide the air, i.e, face masks or nasal pillows. The mask may be one that covers only your nose, or both, your nose and mouth. These are then put on the patient, that enables the pressure to build up. Finally, the mask is placed on the patient, where the pressure begins to build, and allows easy breathing. Here, the pressure increases when the patient inhales, a setting known as IPAP, and decreases when the patient exhales, a setting known as EPAP. Some machines contain a humidifier, that serve to eliminate the dryness associated with breathing from a machine.
The settings and pressure are set by your doctor only after your lung capacity has been measured, and your condition has been diagnosed. Whether it is for sleep apnea or for COPD, the pressure that is set by the doctor for normal breathing, depends on your condition. You do not need to, neither should you, change the settings on this machine, as it may prove dangerous. On your regular visits to your doctor, the machine will be configured and changes will be made as per your changing requirements.
A BiPAP works in three modes, which include:
- Spontaneous Mode: The spontaneous mode allows the air pressure to regulate itself according to the patient's breathing pattern.
- Timed Mode: The timed mode permits only one level of air pressure to continue for a specified time period. This is also known as the 'ramp' feature in a BiPAP.
- Spontaneous/Timed Mode: Here, the spontaneous mode is dominant, where the air pressure is regulated according to the patient's breathing pattern. However, in case there is a drop in the breathing capacity, or if the breathing stops completely, the air pressure is adjusted for a specific time period, that continues until the breathing pattern is regulated.
Though most commonly used for sleep apnea and COPD, the settings can be adjusted to treat other breathing problems that may cause shortness of breath and other such symptoms. Using a BiPAP is possible only on prescription, and the settings should be adjusted only by a doctor or a technician. Do not attempt to change the settings or use the machine without prescription as it may do you more harm than good.
Disclaimer: This SleepHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.