BiPAP Settings and Use
A brief overview of the various settings and correct use of BiPAP machines.
Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by the constant interruption of normal breathing while sleeping. When a patient experiences an apnea their breathing stops for a prolonged period of time. Some patients, after overcoming the apnea, will experience a hperpnea, which is rapid shallow breathing to compensate for the lack of oxygen experienced during the apnea. One treatment for sleep apnea is the use of a bilevel positive airway pressure machine, or BiPAP for short.
The function of a BiPAP machine is to provide positive air pressure to the patient to prevent the collapse of tissue in the throat, which would cause an apnea. In this way, BiPAP machines function similarly in purpose to a CPAP machine. However, a BiPAP machine administers two levels of pressure: an inspiratory positive airway pressure (IPAP) for when the patient inhales and an expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP) for when the patient exhales. This is so the patient experiences less resistance to exhalation that is present in CPAP machines, which administer a constant pressure during inhalation and exhalation alike. Though the functioning of the machines differ, the use of the machines are almost identical.
A typical BiPAP machine is set up in a similar manner to a CPAP machine: hoses are attached from the machine to a delivery device such as a face mask or nasal pillows, which are then secured to the patient in a way that allows pressure to build. Once the mask is secured, the pressure builds and prevents the patients airway from collapsing by increasing the pressure during inhalation and lowering the pressure during exhalation.
The settings on a BiPAP machine are configured by a doctor or technician that has received the results from a sleep study that monitored the severity of the disorder and calculated the optimal pressure to administer through the machine. Because the BiPAP machine comes preconfigured, the patient is not required to make any adjustments or complete any advanced setup options to use the machine.
The machines are usually configured to run in one of three settings controlling the change in the pressure from IPAP to EPAP and back again: spontaneous, timed, and spontaneous/timed. Spontaneous mode monitors when the pressure changes based on the patients breathing and then changes from IPAP to EPAP or vice versa accordingly. Timed mode controls the pressure completely mechanically, switching pressure when a preconfigured amount of time passes. Spontaneous/Timed mode is when the pressure is adjusted based on the patients breathing, and if the patients breath should stop, the time will resume the pressure until normal breathing is again achieved.
BiPAP machines are similar in use to CPAP machines but differ in function. For those who find the constant pressure of a CPAP machine too discomforting, a BiPAP machine is an excellent alternative. Switching from a CPAP machine to a BiPAP machine takes little effort, as most face masks have universal hookups and your previous titrations from your sleep test will still be relevant in configuring your BiPAP machine, so there is little to worry about as far as inconvenience is concerned when switching to BiPAP machines.