A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device is a breathing assistance machine that delivers constant air pressure into your mouth and nose. This helps to keep your airway open. It will allow you to inhale completely. The pressure is delivered through air from the machine through a face mask covering your nose or mouth and nose.
CPAP is most often used for
obstructive sleep apnea
sleep disordered breathing. This is a condition in which breathing stops during sleep many times during a night. This can lead to daytime sleepiness and many other complications. CPAP helps to keep the throat and airway open. People suffering from sleep apnea can then breathe normally while sleeping. It is considered to be the most effective treatment for sleep apnea.
Many patients who use CPAP for sleep apnea have the following:
CPAP is also occasionally used for preterm infants or in surgery with
general anesthesia. In both of these cases, CPAP is used to ensure that breathing remains steady.
Most patients who use CPAP report at least one side effect. The first nights using a CPAP machine can be difficult. You may even experience poorer sleep at first. It is important to prepare for inconveniences until you become accustomed to the CPAP treatment. Talk with your doctor about steps you can take to minimize any discomfort.
CPAP is a noninvasive, nonsurgical way of improving sleep with sleep apnea and is considered very safe. Talk to your doctor about complications, such as:
A feeling of claustrophobia or suffocation from wearing the face mask
Rash or pressure sores in the area of the face mask
Nasal congestion and nosebleeds
Sore eyes, conjuncitivits
Sore or dry throat
Chest muscle discomfort
What to Expect
Prior to Getting a Machine
A complete physical exam will be done.
Your doctor may require you to stay in a sleep lab. This will help to determine the correct amount of airway pressure for you and your condition.
You may see a pulmonologist or an ear, nose, and throat specialist (otolaryngologist).
Depending on your situation, your physician may recommend that you make lifestyle changes, such as:
Description of Using the Machine
Following your stay in a sleep lab, you will be prescribed a CPAP machine.
The CPAP machine includes a ventilator (pump) and a face mask.
The pump sits off the bed and has a tube that goes to the face mask. The face mask will be tightly secured to your head so that air will not leak out. The pump will force air through your airway to help keep it open.
You will wear the face mask to bed every night.
How Long Will It Take?
If you are undergoing CPAP treatment for sleep apnea, you will use the machine indefinitely.
Will It Hurt?
Some patients using CPAP report chest muscle discomfort due to the increased lung volume. Talk with your doctor about the best way for you to relieve any discomfort.
Average Hospital Stay
If you are getting a CPAP machine for sleep apnea, you must stay in the hospital for a sleep study to ensure that the correct amount of pressure is used. You could have to stay in the hospital for just one night, or a few nights.
It is important to note that in the case of CPAP for sleep apnea, discontinuing the use of the CPAP will most likely cause symptoms to return. Follow the instructions for the care and cleaning of your machine and mask.
Call Your Doctor
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
Cough or difficulty breathing
Feelings of dizziness, lightheadedness, or headache
Ear pain that increases when using the CPAP machine
Barnes M, Houston D, Worsnop CJ, et al. A randomized controlled trial of continuous positive airway pressure in mild obstructive sleep apnea.
Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2002:165:773-780.
Bratzke E, Downs JB, Smith RA. Intermittent CPAP: a new mode of ventilation during general anesthesia.
Chowdhuri S. "Continuous positive airway pressure for the treatment of sleep apnea."
Otolaryngology Clinics of North America.
Montserrat J, Ferrar M, Hernandez L, et al. Effectiveness of CPAP treatment in daytime function in sleep apnea syndrome: a randomized controlled study with an optimized placebo.
Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2001;64:608-613.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a