What Is BiPAP?


BiPAP is a non-invasive ventilatory assist machine. Non-invasive ventilation (NIV) machines are those that can help breathing without requiring a tube inserted into the persons airway. By pushing air into the lungs through a mask worn over the nose, NIV assists breathing. This technology was developed in the 1980's to help people with sleep apnea, a condition where the airway collapses during sleep causing the person to stop breathing repeatedly. By pushing air in, the machine keeps the airway "inflated" so it won't collapse. This is CPAP, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure.

In the 1990's computer technology added a new dimension to NIV. Now the machine could push air in until a preset pressure was reached, then reduce the pressure to allow the person to exhale easily. Repeating this cycle made breathing more comfortable and suitable for people with neuromuscular diseases who could not exhale against the higher pressure. This type of machine was sold by Respironics using the brand name BiPAP (Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure). Like the brand name "Kleenex", BiPAP has become the common name for all such products.

BiPAP is a ventilatory assist machine, but it is not a full featured traditional ventilator. A ventilator can do everything BiPAP does but a BiPAP can't do all the things a ventilator can. There are several critical distinctions between BiPAP and a traditional ventilator:


One final comparison between Bilevel respiratory support is the warning that a ventilated person requires 24/7 care. That is true and yet misleading.


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