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Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a respiratory ventilation treatment method developed by Colin Sullivan in Sydney, Australia in 1981. It was initially designed as a treatment for sleep apnea, but is now used in hospitals across the world in neonatal units, post-operative wards, and to treat patients suffering from respiratory issues. A CPAP store is a medical supply outlet that markets respiratory equipment.
A CPAP consists of three major components; a generator which provides air flow, a hose, and an interface, which can be a mask, pillow or other device used to deliver the air to the patient. The machine provides a continuous airflow set at a prescribed pressure level. A CPAP store will usually carry a variety of these, as well as replacement parts and accessories. Some of the interface choices available include full face, nasal, nasal pillow, nasal prong and oral.
CPAP machines are generally set at the prescribed level by a technician at the time the machine is delivered. The machines are adjustable, and the owner’s manual should contain instructions for changing the airflow if necessary. It is highly recommended that no changes be made without first consulting a physician to assure that sufficient flow is maintained to properly treat the condition.
Automatic positive airway pressure (APAP) and bi-level positive airway pressure (BPAP) devices can also be found at a CPAP store. The APAP adjusts air flow automatically to create the minimum amount of pressure required to keep the airways open. The BPAP operates with two pressure levels; a higher level for inhalation, and a lower level for exhalation. Portable units are also available for travel use.
Since oxygen can be dehydrating, many machines are designed to use a humidifier. Passive humidifiers are generally separate units which can be hooked up to the CPAP. The air is blown through a chamber of unheated water before entering the mask. This method does relieve some of the dryness, but is not generally as effective as the built-in, heated humidifiers. A selection of humidifiers in varying price ranges can be found in either a traditional or Internet CPAP store.
In the United States, physician-prescribed CPAP machines may be covered by private insurance programs, depending on the type of coverage. Patients on Medicare or Medicaid will usually receive reimbursement as long as they have a prescription. National and regional health plans in Canada and Australia may provide some assistance, depending on the patient’s income level, or the province in which they reside. Great Britain’s National Health Service will cover the equipment if prescribed by a doctor. A patient should check with the CPAP store when ordering to see if it takes insurance consignment.