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Blog Feature

By: Kevin Asp on July 1st, 2015

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BiPAP™ (Bilevel positive airway pressure) or CPAP Therapy?

Sleep Medicine | Sleep Disorders

If you've been diagnosed with sleep apnea, your sleep physician has probably prescribed you with one of several types of PAP therapy for your sleeping disorder to help treat your symptoms. But which one works best for you?

In our previous blog posts, we defined and discussed CPAP therapy and APAP therapy. But what about bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP)?  How are these modalities different from each other?


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What is BiPAP Therapy?

BiPAP (also referred to as BPAP) is short for Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure and this machine has a very similar function to CPAP machine therapy.

BiPAP and CPAP machines are very similar in function and design in that they are a non-invasive form of therapy for those suffering from sleep apnea.  Like CPAP treatments, BPAP treatments are designed to keep the airway from collapsing and allow users to breathe easily and regularly during sleep.

What's the difference between BiPAP therapy and CPAP therapy?

1. BiPAP mitigates one of the most common complaints of using a CPAP machine.

One of the most common complaints about CPAP machines is that patients find the constant singular pressure uncomfortable to breathe against. Exhaling can be challenging for some patients who are using CPAP devices at higher pressures.

But using a BiPAP machine, patients can breathe easier as the machine reduces the pressure level during exhalation, allowing the patient to exhale more easily and breathe more comfortably.

2. BiPAP machines have two pressure settings

The main difference between BiPAP and CPAP devices is that BiPAP machines have two pressure settings: one pressure for inhalation (IPAP), and a lower pressure for exhalation (EPAP).

The BiPAP machine is designed to increase the pressure when you inhale to keep the airways in the nose and throat from closing while you are sleeping, and provide a lower pressure during exhalation that continues to maintain an open airway.  Many patients find BiPAP more comfortable than the single pressure delivered by CPAP machines.

BiPAP may also be used for patients who require some breathing assistance.  BiPAP has been prescribed for patients who have congestive heart failure and other serious diseases affecting the heart and lungs.

3. BiPAP machines and CPAP machines often cater to different needs

People with nerve and muscle problems may better benefit from the BiPAP machine rather than the CPAP machine.  BiPAP machines can be set to make sure that users breathe a set number of times per minute. The difference in inhalation and exhalation pressures reduces the work of breathing breathing, and allows the person to have a more restful sleep. These are some reasons BiPAP machines are sometimes used as a  treatment method when CPAP has failed to adequately treat their sleep disordered breathing.

The CPAP machine is usually used to treat mild to moderate sleep apnea. But depending on the severity of sleep apnea, doctors may recommend a BiPAP machine instead.  Patients requiring high levels of CPAP pressure are often more comfortable using BiPAP.

If your CPAP or BiPAP machine is noisy see our blog post on how to keep your CPAP machine quiet in the night.

Keep in mind that both machines are quite beneficial for patients with sleep disordered breathing, and the ability to use the appropriate therapy is crucial to keeping sleepers breathing.

Is BiPAP therapy right for you?

Don't forget that the main difference between these two machines depend on your needs.  Each individual responds differently to each treatment method, so we recommend that you follow your sleep physician's advice based on your test and treatment results.  Appropriate testing is essential to determine what treatment method would suit your needs better and what settings are appropriate for you.

But keep in mind that you can still ask your doctor for a different treatment option if you find one type of PAP machine difficult to use.  CPAP, APAP and BiPAP therapy are all appropriate treatment modalities for some patients.

Sleep technologists, which treatment do you do you find work best for your patients with sleep apnea? Share your thoughts below. To learn more about PAP therapy, and how to help your patients increase PAP compliance, download our free eBook that outlines key tips to improving your compliance rates

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Kevin Asp, CRT, RPSGT is the founder and President of SomnoSure Inc and inboundMed.