"BiPAP" is a term that is sometimes used colloquially to refer to bilevel positive airway pressure (BPAP). A BiPAP machine, which is more accurately called a BPAP machine, is a breathing apparatus that helps its user get more air into his or her lungs. Created in the 1990s, the BPAP machine is derived from the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. Unlike a CPAP machine, however, a BPAP machine uses variable levels of air pressure instead of continuous pressure. Both of these devices are used to help treat breathing difficulties, particularly obstructive sleep apnea.
How the Apparatus Works
A CPAP machine works by maintaining a certain amount of air pressure within a mask that the user wears, such as while he or she is sleeping. The air pressure keeps the wearer's airway open, allowing him or her to breathe easily while sleeping. One problem with an apparatus that uses a continuous amount of air pressure is that the person has to exhale against this extra pressure. This makes it imperfect or unsuitable for certain people, such as those who are suffering from neuromuscular diseases.
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A BPAP machine allows the air that is delivered through the mask to be set at one pressure for inhaling and another for exhaling. This makes it much easier for the user to adapt to the apparatus and allows a person who has a neuromuscular disease to use the device. These dual settings also allow the user to get more air in and out of his or her lungs.
People Who Might Benefit
BPAP devices have been found to be especially useful for patients who have congestive heart failure or lung disorders, especially conditions that result in above-normal levels of carbon dioxide. In addition, patients for whom intubation — the insertion of a tube through the mouth — is not possible can benefit from the breathing assistance provided by a BPAP machine. Other people who can benefit include those who suffer from atelectasis, which results when all or part of a lung collapses, and which results in the loss of the ability of air sacs at the furthest reaches of the lungs to expand.
Testing and Diagnosis
There are several tests a doctor can perform to find out whether a BPAP machine would be beneficial for someone. One such test is a respiratory test, which involves breathing into a machine to measure lung capacity. The forced vital capacity (FVC) test is another important test, and it measures how deeply a person can breathe. A condition such as obstructive sleep apnea usually is diagnosed through the use of a sleep study, during which the person's breathing is monitored while he or she is sleeping.
Available for Purchase or Rent
BPAP machines usually are covered by medical insurance, although it is possible to purchase a machine independently. If that is not feasible, a person might have the option of renting a BPAP machine from a respiratory care company. Anyone who thinks that he or she might benefit from this type of device should contact a medical doctor or neurologist.
Although many people refer to BPAP machines generically as BiPAP machines, there are devices that have this name as a registered trademark. Philips Respironics, a division of Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V., offers a line of BPAP products under the BiPAP® name. Many other manufacturers also offer BPAP devices.