CPAP and BiPAP therapy both involve using pressurised air to assist people to breathe normally and help prevent ‘stop-start’ breathing in apnea and other breathing disorders. However, there are some key differences that hinge on how much pressure is required, and the level of assistance required.
CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) therapy is used as a treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Treatment involves a CPAP machine with a single air pressure tube. The pressurised airflow helps force air through the obstruction caused by temporarily collapsed airways.
CPAP Therapy is the standard therapy for obstructive sleep apnea. It is sufficient for most apnea sufferers. However, in some cases, BiPAP can provide better treatment, and/or a better experience for the patient. CPAP is also not always sufficient or ideal for patients with central sleep apnea, which originates in the brain, or with other breathing difficulties associated with trauma or illness.
BiPAP Therapy (or ‘BiLevel Therapy’):
BiPAP (BiLevel Positive Airway Pressure) uses two alternate pressures – one for inhaling and one for exhaling. The pressurised airflows force can be set at levels to force breathing, or simply support inefficient breathing.
- The inhalation pressure is called IPAP, and the exhalation pressure is called EPAP.
- The IPAP pressure is set slightly higher than the EPAP pressure. This helps the patient breathe in more deeply, and exhale more easily. The alternate pressures and timing is set according to the patient’s exact requirements.
BiPAP therapy is routinely used:
- For patients with Central Sleep Apnea. In this case, the brain does not send the right breathing signals to the lungs. This result in frequent (and in some cases, life-threatening) failures to draw breath and/or exhale properly during sleep. This is often seen with neuromuscular conditions such as ALS.
- In more severe cases of Obstructive Sleep Apnea where one continuous airway pressure is not enough to assist to the patient with comfortable, uninterrupted breathing during sleep.
- For patients with chronic breathing difficulties resulting from conditions such as congestive heart failure.
Lastly, BiPAP can be used in some cases as an alternative, non-invasive hospital treatment for patients experiencing acute breathing difficulties.