Experts Explore CPAP Machines as Alternative to Ventilators

Ventilators are precious commodities these days, as the battle against COVID-19 proceeds.

If, or when, ventilators are not available, experts are looking into another option that may help: continuous positive airway pressure machines, or CPAP machines.

CPAP machines are traditionally used for people with sleep apnea, but as the pandemic rages on, experts are looking to them as secondary options to ventilators.

“What they're trying to do is repurpose something that was designed just to be sending a steady flow into people who can't breathe on their own,” explained KYW Newsradio medical editor Dr. Brian Mcdonough. “The CPAP machines were basically designed to blow air into the throat through a mask, increasing the air pressure, and that's to prevent the airway from closing during sleep.”

In their current state, CPAP machines would not be a good alternative to ventilators. 

“The CPAP can aerosolize things, and we're doing whatever we can to not aerosolize the virus,” he said. “You don't want to expose other people that way.”

But with some modifications, CPAPs may be able to help people with respiratory failure as a result of the virus.

“I don't think by any means would they be a first option, but I think that it's something that may be able to be helpful, if we don't have anything else,” McDonough added. “What they're trying to do is play with them, modify them, so that they may actually be able to help people who aren't able to breathe on their own, or need support.”