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A BiPap is a type of ventilator, a device that helps with breathing. It’s also known as a bilevel positive airway pressure device, or BPap. It may be used when a health problem is making it hard for you to breathe. A BiPap can help you breathe if you have any of these:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

  • Obstructive sleep apnea

  • Obesity hypoventilation syndrome

  • Pneumonia

  • Asthma flare-up

  • Poor breathing after surgery

  • Neurological disease that disturbs breathing

How a BiPap helps

During normal breathing, your lungs expand when you breathe in. As they do, the pressure drops inside the tubes and sacs of your lungs. This decrease in pressure sucks air into your lungs. They fill with oxygenated air. If you have trouble breathing enough on your own, a BiPap machine can help push air into your lungs.

During use, you wear a mask or nasal plugs. These are connected to a tube that leads to a ventilator machine. The machine sends pressurized air into your airways. The machine helps open your lungs with this air pressure. This is called “positive pressure ventilation.” This is different from other types of ventilators. For instance, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) sends the same amount of pressure as you breathe in and out. Some health problems respond better to BiPap than to CPAP.

Risks of BiPap use

A BiPap is usually very safe. It has a lower risk of complications compared with some other types of ventilator support, such as a tracheostomy. The most common problem with a BiPap is a face mask that fits too tightly. Some other risks include:

  • Skin irritation from the mask

  • Mild stomach bloating

  • Dry mouth

  • Leaking from the mask, causing a drop in air pressure

  • Eye irritation

  • Sinus pain or sinus congestion

Your own risks may differ depending on your age, how long you need the BiPap, and your overall health. Talk with your health care provider about any concerns.

Getting ready to use a BiPap

You should be familiar with the parts of your BiPap machine. They include:

  • A face mask, nasal mask, or nasal plugs

  • The machine’s motor, which blows air into a tube

  • The tubing that connects the machine’s motor to the mask or plugs

Your BiPap machine might also have other features, such as a heated humidifier.

Before you start BiPap therapy, your machine may need to be calibrated. Someone from your health care team will adjust the settings. That person is often a respiratory therapist. The settings need to be correct so that you receive the right therapy. You may also get other instructions on how to get ready for your BiPap therapy.

Using your BiPap

You might receive BiPap therapy while at the hospital for a breathing emergency. You also might use it at home for a chronic condition.

When you first start using BiPap, you may feel uncomfortable. It may feel odd wearing a mask and feeling the flow of air. Over time, you should get used to it. If you feel like you really can’t breathe while using BiPap, talk with your health care provider. He or she may need to adjust the pressure settings on your machine.

Follow your health care provider’s instructions about when to use your BiPap. You might need to use it only while you sleep. Or you might need to use it all the time. Make sure to use it exactly as instructed. Otherwise you will not get the full benefits from your BiPap therapy.

It’s important not to eat or drink anything while using BiPap. You might inhale food or liquid into your lungs if you do so. Your health care provider may give you other instructions about the best way to use your machine.

If your health problem gets better, you may be able to start using less pressure on your BiPap machine. Or you might be able to use the machine less often. Work with your health care team to help get the best treatment.

Fixing problems with your BiPap

  • Nasal dryness. A humidifier may help reduce nasal dryness.

  • Eye or sinus symptoms. Using a facial mask instead of a nasal mask may also help lessen any eye or sinus symptoms.

  • Headaches. If you get headaches, they could be because of sinus congestion. In some cases, your health care provider might prescribe an antihistamine for these symptoms.

  • Leaky mask, skin irritation, or pressure lines. You may need a different size or type of mask. You may also find that adjusting the straps around your mask helps.

  • Stomach bloating. Your health care provider may be able to reduce the pressure setting on your machine to stop stomach bloating.

  • Noise. If the noise from the BiPap bothers you, try using ear plugs. If the device is very loud, check with the medical supplier to make sure it is working correctly.


When to call your health care provider

Have someone call 911 if you are struggling for breath or unable to breathe.

Call your health care provider right away if any of these occur:

  • You feel like you can’t breathe while using your BiPap

  • Your mask is constantly leaking air and you can’t make it fit

  • You have severe or ongoing skin irritation from your mask