CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, is a treatment that uses mild air pressure to keep the airways open. CPAP typically is used by people who have breathing problems, such as sleep apnea.
CPAP also may be used to treat preterm infants whose lungs have not fully developed. For example, doctors may use CPAP to treat infants who have respiratory distress syndrome or bronchopulmonary dysplasia (brong-ko-PULL-mun-ary dis-PLA-ze-ah).
The main focus of this article is CPAP treatment for sleep apnea, although treatment in preterm infants is discussed briefly.
CPAP treatment involves a CPAP machine, which has three main parts:
Some CPAP machines have other features as well, such as heated humidifiers. CPAP machines are small, lightweight, and fairly quiet. The noise that they make is soft and rhythmic.