What is a Bilevel?

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So you’ve been diagnosed with OSA and now you need a mask and a BiPAP ASAP.

All those new terms and acronyms are enough to make anyone’s head spin. Not to worry, we can break it all down for you.

OSA stands for obstructive sleep apnea. If you have been diagnosed with OSA, that means your airway is being blocked while you sleep and you aren’t getting enough oxygen and you aren’t getting restful sleep. Typically CPAPs are prescribed to treat sleep apnea. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. However, there are times when Bilevels are prescribed. Bilevel is shorthand for Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure. Unlike, CPAPs, Bilevels have two pressures. One for when you inhale and one for when you exhale.

Respironics-BiPAPOk, so if that is a Bilevel, then what is a BiPAP and what about a VAuto?

Well the answer is surprisingly simple. A BiPAP is a brand name. BiPAPs are Bilevels made by Respironics. VAutos, on the other hand, are Bilevels made by ResMed. This is similar to the relationship between tissue and Kleenex or bandage and Band-Aid.

Why do I need a Bilevel and not a CPAP?

Bilevels are typically prescribed for more severe cases of sleep apnea or for patients who can’t tolerate a CPAP. When you have more severe sleep apnea, you may need a higher air pressure to treat your symptoms. Patients often find higher pressures hard to exhale against. It can feel as if you have to force the air out of your lungs.  As previously mentioned, Bilevels have two pressures, one for the inhale and one for the exhale. The exhale pressure is lower than the inhale pressure so it is easier to breathe out. This feature increases the comfort and effectiveness of treatment.

What supplies can I use with a Bilevel?

Good news. You can use the same supplies with both CPAPs and BiLevels. I know it’s confusing because most all masks are labeled CPAP masks but don’t be afraid to try them with your BiLevel.

I want to try a Bilevel. What do I do?

Talk to your doctor about the benefits of switching to a Bilevel. If necessary, you may want to consider taking a home sleep test. It is the painless way to get tested (or re-tested for sleep apnea).

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