Auto Adjusting Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Device (APAP)

Last Updated: January 7, 2019

Definition - What does Auto Adjusting Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Device (APAP) mean?

An auto adjusting continuous positive airway pressure device (APAP) is a machine that is used for the treatment of sleep apnea. During an episode of obstructive sleep apnea, a person's airway is blocked and the body deprived of oxygen. This blockage is usually caused by a collapse of the airway. A positive airway pressure device supplies a stream of air pressure to a person's airway while they are sleeping. This air pressure holds the airway open, preventing collapse and obstruction.

The positive air pressure delivered by an airway pressure device can be continuously delivered at a single pressure setting or programmed to adjust to the wearer's breathing patterns. An auto adjusting continues positive airway pressure device is in this latter category. The APAP collects data regarding the wearer's breathing patterns while sleeping and adjust between different pressure settings in response.

An auto adjusting continuous positive airway pressure device may also be called an automatic positive airway pressure device, an auto-titrating continuous positive airway pressure device, or a self-adjusting continuous positive airway pressure device.

WorkplaceTesting explains Auto Adjusting Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Device (APAP)

An APAP machine changes the amount of airway pressure delivered to the user in response to feedback regarding the user's breathing patterns delivered to the machine. This allows the APAP machine to respond to any change in pressure needs without requiring another sleep study or the assistance of a technician. The changes to the machine's pressure delivery are automatic and dynamic, responding to the individual user's needs.

This is different from more common continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices that are usually prescribed after a sleep study has first been performed. During the sleep study, technicians will determine the optimum airway pressure to use for the patient being treated. This pressure is then programmed for the individual's CPAP machine and remains unchanged until another sleep study is performed.

However, many circumstances can cause the ideal airway pressure setting for a patient to differ from moment to moment and day to day. For example, weigh gain or loss, medication usage, and illness or congestion can all affect a person's airway functioning. Additional factors such as changes in altitude, overnight sleep stages, mask slippage, and even sleep position can also affect the person's breathing patterns and airway pressure needs. These changes make an APAP machine a better choice for some patients.

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