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What Are the Differences Between CPAP, APAP, and BiPAP Machines?

March 26, 2023 In Philips CPAP Recall

In the United States, millions of people live with sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder characterized by abnormal breathing patterns. Because this chronic condition leads to breathing pauses during sleep, patients require specialized medical devices to maintain oxygen flow during the night.

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), automatic positive airway pressure (APAP), and bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machines are designed to deliver air pressure to keep the airway open during sleep. Although these three machines have a similar goal, they differ in terms of how they deliver air pressure and their effectiveness in treating sleep apnea.

What Are CPAP Machines?

CPAP machines are the most well-known interventions for sleep apnea. These devices are designed to alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea by delivering a constant stream of pressurized air through a mask worn over the nose or mouth. By providing a continuous flow of air through the nose and mouth, CPAP machines keep the airways open, thereby reducing the frequency and severity of breathing pauses during sleep.

How Does a CPAP Machine Work?

To deliver pressurized air, a CPAP machine first intakes room air and filters it before pressurizing it. The filtered air is then delivered through a tube and into a mask that is worn over the nose and/or mouth. The continuous flow of pressurized air gently stabilizes the tongue, uvula, and soft palate, preventing them from obstructing the airway during sleep. This, in turn, helps to enhance breathing and overall sleep quality.

CPAP masks come in different designs to cater to varying comfort levels, breathing habits, and sleep apnea types:

  • Nasal Mask: This type of mask covers only the nose and is recommended for people who move around frequently during sleep.
  • Nasal Pillow Mask: Instead of covering the whole nose, this mask covers only the nostril area, and some options even have prongs that fit into the nostrils. It is a good option for people who prefer wearing glasses during sleep.
  • Full Mask: This triangular mask fits over the nose and mouth, making it a suitable option for people who breathe through their mouth while sleeping or suffer from nasal blockage.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Using a CPAP Machine?

The benefits of using a CPAP machine are numerous. They can alleviate symptoms of sleep apnea, improve the quality of sleep, and reduce the risk of serious health problems associated with the condition, such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. However, there are some drawbacks to using a CPAP machine. 

Some people find the mask uncomfortable or difficult to wear, and the machines can be noisy and cumbersome. Additionally, they may not be effective for everyone, and some people may experience side effects such as dry mouth, nasal congestion, or skin irritation. Despite these drawbacks, CPAP machines remain one of the most effective treatments for sleep apnea and can greatly improve the quality of life for those who suffer from the condition—as long as the machine is free of defects. If you are harmed by a defective machine, speak to a Philips CPAP recall attorney as soon as possible.

What Are APAP Machines?

APAP machines deliver continuous air pressure to the nose or mouth of individuals with sleep apnea. The machines can automatically adjust pressure levels based on changes during sleep, which ensures optimal pressure and comfort compared to traditional CPAP devices. 

How Does an APAP Machine Work?

Like CPAP devices, APAP machines deliver pressurized air through a mask covering either the nose or both the nose and mouth to keep the airway open and reduce breathing disruptions during sleep. Advanced technology in APAP machines can detect snoring or breathing disruptions and adjust the air pressure accordingly. If breathing changes are detected, the machine increases air pressure to keep the airway open and decreases it when a higher rate is no longer required.

What Is the Difference Between an APAP and a CPAP Machine?

There are several key differences between APAP and CPAP devices:

  • APAP machines automatically adjust pressure levels, whereas CPAP machines deliver steady pressure throughout sleep.  While CPAP machines can be adjusted by doctors, the setting remains unchanged until the doctor adjusts it again.
  • APAPs are better suited for individuals experiencing multiple changes in breathing patterns, while CPAPs may be more effective for people with established patterns of continuous events. 
  • While doctors can prescribe either machine, CPAPs are more commonly used and covered by insurance plans. APAPs cost slightly more than CPAPs.

What Are BiPAP Machines?

BiPAP machines are a type of non-invasive ventilation used to treat sleep apnea, COPD, and other respiratory conditions. Unlike continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, BiPAP machines use two levels of air pressure to assist breathing.

How Does a BiPAP Machine Work?

BiPAP machines have two air pressure settings: inspiratory positive airway pressure (IPAP) and expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP). IPAP provides more air pressure when breathing in, while EPAP reduces air pressure when breathing out. 

These devices are typically the size of a lunchbox and are connected to a face mask, nasal mask, or nasal plugs by a tube. The machine’s motor blows air through the tube, which enters the body through the mask or plugs.

What Is the Difference Between a BiPAP and a CPAP Machine?

Both BiPAP and CPAP systems are highly effective in treating sleep disorders. CPAP machines are well-suited for individuals with obstructive sleep apnea, while BiPAP machines are more effective in treating central sleep apnea, complex sleep apnea, or COPD. 

BiPAP machines are easier to exhale with than CPAP machines due to their added complexity, but they also cost more. Most health insurance plans cover sleep disorders and the machines used for treatment; the extent of coverage varies based on the specific plan.

Injured by a Defective CPAP, APAP, or BiPAP? Contact an Attorney

While CPAP, APAP, and BiPAP machines are critical medical devices for people with sleep apnea and other disorders, not all of them are safe to use. Some CPAP and BiPAP machines manufactured by Philips have been recalled due to the degradation of polyester-based polyurethane (PE-PUR) foam. Foam particles can travel into the airway and cause serious medical conditions, including kidney, lung, and liver cancer.

If you were injured by a defective CPAP, APAP, or BiPAP device, you may qualify for legal action against the manufacturer responsible. In these situations, you need an attorney on your side who can fight for your rights and help you recover the compensation that you deserve. Contact a CPAP lawsuit attorney as soon as possible following your diagnosis to discuss your case and plan your next steps.