BiPAP, or bi-level positive airway pressure, is a medical device that helps people breath better. BiPAP is not a ventilator, meaning it does not breathe for you. Rather, BiPAP uses pressure to allow more air to reach your lungs when you breathe on your own. BiPAP has two settings: one for breathing in and one for breathing out. Air is only pressurised when you inhale, which helps air get into your lungs. The pressure goes away when you exhale. BiPAP is useful for many different medical conditions.
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Sleep apnoea occurs when you stop breathing during sleep. Breathing may pause for several seconds before resuming and may reoccur several times during your sleep cycle. Sleep apnoea is a chronic condition, meaning it is ongoing and does not go away on its own. Obstructive sleep apnoea is the most common type of apnoea, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. This causes the airway to collapse during sleep. You may have loud snoring or gurgling in your sleep from air trying to pass through the obstructed airway. BiPAP worn during sleep allows positive pressure to keep the airway open and allow air to enter the lungs effectively.
Acute Respitory Failure
Acute respiratory failure occurs when the body is no longer able to support breathing on its own. This may occur from trauma to the brain or lungs, illness or chronic respiratory disease such as emphysema or asthma. BiPAP may be used in the emergency department to help keep a patient's lungs supplied with oxygen, which may reduce the need to intubate by placing a breathing tube into the airway.
BiPAP may also be used for people with neuromuscular disease, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. This disease causes nerves and muscles that control body functions, such as breathing, to worsen over time. BiPAP is commonly used by people with ALS to help maintain independent breathing as long as possible, according to the ALS Association.
BiPAP may be used in a hospital setting for other medical conditions to help maintain independent breathing. People with a collapsed lung or who have lungs that don't inflate normally may benefit from BiPAP. It may also be used for people with congestive heart disease or other conditions that affect circulation. Poor circulation may lead to a build-up of carbon dioxide; BiPAP may help circulate oxygen and carbon dioxide more effectively though the body.
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- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: What is Sleep Apnea?; August 2010
- ALS.org: Living with ALS: Adapting to breathing
- Emergency Medicine Journal: Non-invasive ventilation in acute respiratory failure: a randomised comparison of continuous positive airway pressure and bi-level positive airway pressure; A.M Cross, et al; January 2003