What Is a BPAP?

Man sleeping in bed wearing BiPAP mask.A BPAP is a type of ventilator, a device that helps with breathing. It’s also known as a bilevel positive airway pressure device. It may be used when a health problem is making it hard for you to breathe. A BPAP 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 does a BPAP help?

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 BPAP 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 BPAP  than to CPAP.

What are the risks of BPAP use?

A BPAP 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 BPAP is a facemask 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 BPAP , and your overall health. Talk with your healthcare provider about any concerns.