BiPAP therapy, how it works and how it differs from CPAP

You might already know what continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is, but have you heard about BPAP? Bilevel positive airway pressure (also referred to as BiPAP) is very similar in design and function to a CPAP machine. It is a non-invasive form of sleep therapy for patients who suffer from sleep apnea. BiPAP machines deliver pressurised air via a mask to the patient’s airways, keeping the upper passage open and reducing obstructions by acting as a splint.

The difference between BiPAP and CPAP

CPAP machines have always been the treatment of choice for people suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. CPAP machines deliver a steady, continuous stream of pressurised air to a patient’s airways to keep them from collapsing and causing apnea events.

CPAP machines can only be set to a single pressure, which remains consistent throughout its use. However, many CPAP machines today can also start off with a lower pressure setting and slowly build to the prescribed pressure. This feature makes the pressure at the beginning slightly more tolerable and less immediate after the pressure builds to the prescribed setting, it stays at that for the rest of the use.

The Benefit of using BiPAP

Most patients using CPAP find the constant singular pressure difficult to exhale against. For those suffering from chronic sleep apnea and have higher pressure strengths, exhaling against the steady incoming air may prove difficult, as if they have to force their breathing out.

A BiPap machine can be customized to include a breath timing setting that determines the amount of breaths per minute a person should take. If the time between breaths exceeds the prescribed/set limit, the machine can force the person to breathe by temporarily increasing the air pressure.

The main difference is that BiPAP have two pressure settings: the prescribed pressure for inhalation (ipap), and a lower pressure setting for exhalation (epap). This dual feature lets the patient get more air in and out of their lungs.

Who benefits from using BiPAP?

BiPAP is typically prescribed to sleep apnea patients who needs high-pressure settings or low oxygen levels. It is also used as an alternative if CPAP has failed to adequately treat certain patients. BiPAP can be helpful for patients with cardiopulmonary disorders like congestive heart failure. It is also prescribed to people with certain neuromuscular disorders or lung issues.

CPAP with C-Flex

C-Flex is an add-on for CPAP machines that offer pressure relief as the patient exhales so that they don’t feel like they’re competing against the incoming airflow of the device. However, C-Flex is primarily a comfort feature for CPAP machines that can only offer pressure relief up to 3cm, whereas BiPAP pressure relief starts at 4cm and can go up as necessary. If you only need a little pressure relief, then CPAP with C-Flex might be enough.

End Note

Depending on the results of your sleep study, more than likely your sleep technician or doctor will know right away if a BiPAP machine will suit your needs. However, if you’ve already tried CPAP and find the pressure setting too difficult to adjust to or manage, talk with your doctor and see if a BiPAP machine will benefit you.