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CPAP Vs. BiPAP - Difference between CPAP and BiPAP

Patients suffering from sleep apnea are familiar with CPAP and BiPAP, the two modes of treatment that bring considerable relief to the affected person. This article analyzes both machines and lists the differences between the two.
SleepHearty Staff
Last Updated: Mar 26, 2018
Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) is a respiratory ventilation technique that is used to treat sleep apnea and other cases of respiratory failure.
Sleep apnea is a respiratory disorder characterized by interrupted breathing that periodically disturbs the sleep of the sufferer. This is caused when the air passages that carry the inhaled air to the lungs become narrow, not allowing the air to pass through. This leads the oxygen levels in the body to dip, and the patient often wakes up, gasping for air.
Those undergoing treatment for sleep apnea are usually familiar with the CPAP and BiPAP machines that allow the patient hassle-free breathing throughout the night. Both these machines make use of the positive airway pressure technique to help clear the airway passage to allow easier breathing.
What are CPAP and BiPAP?
The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine gives a predetermined level of pressure. It releases a gust of compressed air through a hose which is connected to the nose mask. The continuous air pressure is what keeps the upper airway open. Thus, air pressure prevents obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs as a result of narrowing of the air passage due to the relaxation of upper respiratory tract muscles while the patient sleeps. It assists in increasing the flow of oxygen by keeping the airway open.

CPAP, though primarily used to treat sleep apnea, has also proven useful for those suffering from other respiratory problems.

The Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) is a patented, non-invasive ventilation machine. As the name suggest, it delivers two levels of pressure.
  • Inspiratory Positive Airway Pressure (IPAP) is a high level of pressure, applied when the patient inhales.
  • Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure (EPAP), a low level of pressure exerted during exhalation.
BiPAP is used to treat central sleep apnea and severe obstructive sleep apnea. It is also prescribed for patients who suffer from respiratory and heart diseases.
Differences Between CPAP and BiPAP

Uses
  • The CPAP was originally designed to treat sleep apnea, it is also used to treat patients with neuromuscular diseases and respiratory problems.
  • The BiPAP is used in cases of central sleep apnea, along with respiratory and heart diseases.
Airway Pressure
  • The CPAP delivers air pressure at a single level. The air pressure cannot be altered.
  • The BiPAP has two levels of airway pressure - high, when the patient inhales, and low when the patient exhales. The air pressure in the BiPAP can be altered.
User-friendliness
  • Patients using the CPAP have to exert extra force against the air flow while exhaling, as the airway pressure remains constant. This, at times, may disrupt the patient's sleep.
  • With the BiPAP, the airway pressure is set at high and low levels, making it more user-friendly.
Cost
  • The CPAP comes at a lower price tag, as compared to the BiPAP.
Other Differences
  • Patients who have used both machines report that the BiPAP machine tends to be noisier than the CPAP machine, which can be an influencing factor.
  • Usually, patients who cannot adapt to the CPAP machine are advised to use the BiPAP.
  • Unlike the CPAP, the airway pressure settings of the BiPAP need to be monitored.
One can very well imagine that wearing these contraptions while sleeping can be a little uncomfortable. However, both these machines are now designed to actually be user-friendly, keeping several factors in mind. Patients need to consult their doctor to find out the better alternative that will suit their requirements.