CPAP vs. BiPAP – The Difference Between BiPAP & CPAP

If you have sleep apnea, your doctor may suggest CPAP or BiPAP therapy for your condition. But what are the differences between these two therapies, and which one is right for you?

How it Works

The definitions for each of these sleep apnea treatments helps to explain what each therapy does.

CPAP is the acronym used for continuous positive airway pressure. With this therapy, air pressure is generated by a machine and then delivered to the user through a face mask, which fits over the nose or mouth. A tube connects the CPAP machine to the mask. There is only one type of air pressure delivered with this type of treatment, but some CPAP machines do offer an option to gradually increase the level of pressure as a person falls asleep, which is generally more comfortable for the user.

BiPAP, on the other hand, stands for bi-level positive airway pressure. The setup for a BiPAP machine looks very similar to that of a CPAP machine; there is a tube connecting a machine to a mask over the nose or mouth. The biggest difference between BiPAP and CPAP is that BiPAP machines produces two levels of pressure – inhale pressure and exhale pressure – while CPAP only delivers a single pressure. This ultimately allows patients to get more air in and out of their lungs, and most machines have a breath timing feature that allows the pressure to be customized to achieve a desired breath rate throughout the night.

Which One to Use

BiPAP therapy is sometimes considered to be more comfortable for the user due to two different levels of pressure being delivered. However, it may be more expensive as well.

A doctor may recommend BiPAP therapy if a user is having difficulty with their CPAP treatment. Problems with tolerating CPAP therapy may occur with some users, however, new technologies have increased comfort levels for those using CPAP machines, so in most cases, CPAP will be the recommended treatment between these two options.

Special Circumstances

Beyond comfort issues, there are certain issues which may make BiPAP therapy a better fit for a patient’s sleep apnea treatment. Those who need additional respiratory support may be prescribed BiPAP instead of CPAP because the dual pressure of BiPAP helps eliminate extra carbon dioxide from the body. This works well for those who need high pressure settings or low oxygen levels during their treatment.

In addition, those who are suffering from other conditions besides sleep apnea may benefit from BiPAP therapy. The following are some of the conditions for which BiPAP treatment is sometimes recommended:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Pulmonary disorders
  • Neurologic disorders
  • Neuromuscular disorders

Talking to Your Doctor

Ultimately, you’ll need to confer with your doctor about these options so he or she can determine which is best for your health needs and comfort. You may be asked to participate in a sleep study to provide additional information before making this decision. Whether you end up using a CPAP or BiPAP machine to help with your sleep apnea, you’ll be able to get a more restful night’s sleep, and you’ll be protecting your health while you’re at it.

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