Can CPAP Machines Be Used as Ventilators to Treat COVID-19?

DreamStation Auto CPAP Machine

The novel Coronavirus crisis has placed unexpected stresses on the health care supply system. A shortage of ventilators, one of the leading treatments for COVID-19, has compelled health professionals to seek out new, alternative ways to deliver respiratory support to patients affected with the Coronavirus. Repurposing other respiratory equipment is one such measure.

On March 22, the FDA said that manufacturers and health care professionals can make necessary modifications to convert continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and bi-level positive air pressure (BiPAP) machines to treat respiratory insufficiency, provided the design mitigations minimized aerosolization.

However, according to a March 27, 2020 NPR report, this strategy can possibly increase the spread of infectious disease by aerosolizing the virus, whether used in the hospital or at home.2 In fact, the use of CPAP machines to treat respiratory illness may have contributed to the spread of COVID-19 in a Washington state nursing home.2  

For now, CPAP machines are part of the emergency plans in place by states should a shortage of ventilators occur.  

What’s the Difference Between CPAP Machines and Ventilators?

CPAP machines and ventilators are both mechanical ventilation; they both assist with patient breathing. CPAP machines deliver a steady stream of pressurized air to keep the airways open while sleeping, thus preventing the collapse of the passageway and episodes of interrupted breathing. A ventilator is necessary for more severe respiratory conditions in which a patient is unable to breathe on their own.

How Are CPAP Machines Repurposed for COVID-19?

For the most severe COVID-19 patients, ventilators are critical. However, for mild-to-moderate cases where patients are having some respiratory distress, a modified CPAP machine may be able to assist. Per the FDA, this type of medication requires work from the manufacturer and should only be used with careful monitoring to ensure it is effective and working correctly. 

How CPAP Machines Help with Breathing

Before the Coronavirus, patients with sleep apnea have relied upon CPAP therapy to help them sleep. CPAP machines blow air into the throat through a mask with increasing air pressure to prevent the airway from closing during sleep.

BiPAP machines work similarly to CPAP but they deliver two types of air pressure, one for inhalation and one for exhalation. BiPAP therapy is used when CPAP therapy is not tolerated by some patients. 

Is Sleep Apnea a Health Concern for COVID-19?

Many pre-existing health conditions put patients at increased risk for COVID-19 infection. For example, chronic lung disease, heart conditions or compromised immune systems have been named as risk factors. But there is no evidence that sleep apnea should be a concern for patients. However, those who use CPAP machines for sleep apnea should use extra care when cleaning their CPAP equipment.

How Can CPAP Machines Help at Home?

At home, CPAP machines continue to be the primary method of non-invasive treatment for sleep apnea. An estimated 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with 80 percent of the cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea undiagnosed. Learn more about sleep apnea, its symptoms and treatment, and how CPAP machines help. 

For questions about CPAP machines and sleep apnea, our customer service team can be reached at via phone at 866.414.9700 or via email at contact@thecpapshop.com.

References:

  1. US. Food & Drug Administration. Ventilator Supply Mitigation Strategies: Letter to Health Care Providers. Accessed March 2020.
  2. Hawryluk M. CPAP machines were seen as ventilator alternatives, but could spread COVID-19. NPR. 2020 Mar 27. 
  3. American Sleep Apnea Association. Sleep Apnea Information for Clinicians. Accessed March 2020.
Chris Vasta

Author

Chris Vasta

Over a 10+ year career at PHH Mortgage managing a $100 million portfolio, Chris Vasta learned the ins and outs of the business world. He learned how to establish business relationships, lead a multi-prong team, and implement strategies for long-term growth. In 2007, Vasta used that experience to transition his role into president of The CPAP Shop. Over his tenure, Vasta has been involved in everything from website design to warehouse layout. His hands-on approach with customers has evolved into an in-depth understanding of the challenges of beginning and adhering to sleep therapy. He often provides his insights on product…


27 Comments Leave new

  • James

    Hi I’m brand new here I know nothing about these machines and began studying I’m a quick study I went online bought one for $100. I bought a mask $250 the backstory of why I did this I caught the nasty strain variant of covid-19 probably the one found in India for Brazil it attacked my lungs I refuse to go to the hospital or go see a doctor to get treated I took matters into my own hands follow the science listen to the data and began working on my respiratory system I jumped into a hotel room isolated myself and began a medical Journey my next step is to modify the machine to be battery portable I was having trouble getting air down my lungs without pain or any issues the machine was incredible solve most of the problems and I’m back to 50% capacity I was debilitated at a time of building this machine every energy I had what’s hard to muster as I’m writing this right now I think I’ll be a hundred percent in 2 days if you’ve got a mechanical background Be Inspired get involved these machines are so cheap when they are used look into them only if you know what you’re doing and have a basic understanding. This is a wonderful sight full of a lot of information my original search was using a CPAP machine to fight covid-19 that was my goal and still is my next goal now is to make it into a portable respirator the fixin to a backpack that does not look ugly and its concealable while I work out so I get the right air flow going and we build my body’s Harmony again please everyone out there stay safe these machines do not protect you from Catching covid-19 due to their filtering system they only help you get air down into your lungs which a lot of us have problems with but did not realize that modifications can be made to make it a perfect system

    • Chris Vasta

      On March 22, the FDA said that manufacturers and health care professionals can make necessary modifications to convert continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and bi-level positive air pressure (BiPAP) machines to treat respiratory insufficiency, provided the design mitigations minimized aerosolization. While we are very pleased to hear you are on the road to recovery, a CPAP machine is considered a Class II medical devise which requires a prescription. It was not originally meant to be used for the purpose that you described and we do not recommend modifying unless it is overseen by a medical professional.

  • Richard Mann

    Hello Chris, I am a vehicle-dweller living in a camper -van using a CPAP machine powered by 12 Volt-Optima brand sealed-Auto. batteries. Everything is very effective except I don’t have the capabilities to clean the machine properly due to Lacking Sufficient water facilities since the closing of all the gymnasiums where I used to shower and clean the machine before this coronavirus Interruption. Can I use a disinfectant or alcohol safely to clean my CPAP machine and it’s accessories? Please advise, Thank you Good work Chris!

    • Chris Vasta

      No, please do not use alcohol or disinfectant to clean your CPAP accessories. For the mask, you can use mask wipes, to a gentle damp cloth. Perhaps see if you can get bottled water from someplace nearby.

  • Fred Schecter

    if i use my cpap machine continually on an airplane will it keep out the Coronavirus COVID-19

  • S Bradley

    Hi
    I have some queries as I have the subject CPAP and would like it to help me and my wife in respect of Covid

    I have a CPAP Dream Station

    01. Can I convert it to be used in the treatment of Covid
    02 Can it be converted to be used by two people in parallel

    Your assistance would be appreciated.

    • Chris Vasta

      Certain types of CPAP machines can be converted to help with COVID19, but that would not be determined by our company and would be up to the discretion of the treating physician. No, the CPAP machine can not be converted to be used by multiple people at the same time.

  • Lyman Hays

    I have posted an article on LinkedIn addressing use of CPAP/BiPAP machines to provide non-invasive ventilation. https://lnkd.in/g46Sqec

  • George

    Could just an extra full face cpap mask/strap assembly and or tube be modified for public use? I.e. grocery shoppping etc (not cpap operation) by addition of a proper filtering barrier for intake?

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