Pulmonary edema and BiPAP machine usage may or may not be a good match, depending on the severity of the condition. The breathing problem from the edema can significantly interfere with sleep and it can be fatal if left untreated.
Biphasic positive airway pressure devices (BiPAP) were developed in the 1990s to help patients improve breathing in an approach similar to CPAP machines in that they provide positive airway pressure. BiPaP machines differ from CPAP machines in that they adjust air pressure according to the individual's breaths. When the person breaths in, pressure increases; when they breath out, pressure decreases. Like CPAP machines, BiPAP devices are used to treat obstructive sleep apnea.
When a person has sleep apnea, breathing is disrupted because the airway passages becomes blocked. Air pressure can alleviate the problem by forcing air through the airway passage. A BiPAP machine can be a helpful tool for improving breathing in some cases of pulmonary edema.
What Is Pulmonary Edema
Pulmonary edema is a health condition in which the patient has excess fluid in the lungs, making breathing difficult. In some cases, the problem can be life-threatening, especially when the build up of fluid is sudden. Air sacs called alveoli process gases entering the lungs, sending oxygen to the blood and expelling carbon dioxide through the mouth and nasal passages. When a person has pulmonary edema, the air sacs become weighted down with fluid.
The possible causes for the excess fluid in the air sacs are numerous, but they can be divided into two basic categories:
- Cardiac - The left ventricle is unable to pump enough blood, making it back up into the lungs or the right ventricle is unable to handle pressure from the pulmonary artery.
- Non-cardiac - Conditions not related to heart function can cause fluid to accumulate in the air sacs.
The symptoms a patient experiences depend greatly on the cause of the build up of fluid in the lungs. Signs of the breathing problem associated with heart problems may appear all at once; however, they are more likely to appear over time such as:
- Get "out of breath" easily during exercise
- Trouble breathing while lying down
- Waking up because you can't catch your breath
- Feeling tired
- Gaining water weight, especially in the legs
Examples of acute symptoms include:
- Feeling as if you are suffocating
- Unable to catch your breath
- Unable to get enough air
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pains
- Lose color in complexion
- Skin may develop a gray-blue appearance
- Coughing up foamy spittle that may contain some blood
The acute symptoms should never be ignored and you should seek immediate medical treatment if necessary. Some people may experience coughing, headaches, insomnia and they may retain fluids with problems associated with high altitude pulmonary edema. In any case, it is extremely important to seek help from a medical professional.
Pulmonary Edema and BiPAP
Treatment for the breathing condition varies according to the cause of the fluid build-up. For example, it is usually necessary to treat infections in the lungs with antibiotics in order to take care of the problem. However, it is essential to stabilize the patient's breathing to restore oxygen levels in the blood as well.
The Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests through one of its studies that the pulmonary edema and BiPAP treatments are not necessarily the best match. The study concludes that high doses of ISDN (intravenous isosorbide-dinitrate) is a safer, more effective treatment for severe pulmonary edema than the use of BiPAP machines combined with traditional therapies.
While the BiPAP machine may be an effective sleep apnea treatment, it may not be the best approach to treating severe pulmonary edema. Patients can find more information about BiPAP machines by visiting CPAP forums, as well as discussing options with their physicians.