In the NICU – How does C-PAP differ from a ventilator?
Some premature babies are put on C-PAP to help them breathe. Others are on a ventilator. What’s the difference?
In C-PAP (continuous positive airway pressure), air is delivered to a baby’s lungs either through small tubes in the baby’s nose or through a tube that has been inserted into her windpipe. The tubes are attached to a machine, which helps the baby breathe but does not breathe for her. With C-PAP, the baby breathes on her own, but the steady flow of air coming in through the tubes keeps enough pressure in her lungs to prevent the air sacs from collapsing after each breath. It’s a little extra support to help the lungs do their job.
A mechanical ventilator is a breathing machine that delivers warmed and humidified air to a baby’s lungs. The sickest babies receive mechanical ventilation, meaning that the mechanical ventilator temporarily breathes for them while their lungs recover. The air is delivered to the baby’s lungs through an endotracheal tube (a small plastic tube that is inserted through a baby’s nose or mouth down into the windpipe). The amount of oxygen, air pressure and number of breaths per minute can be regulated to meet each baby’s needs.
For those of you who had a premature baby, was she on C-PAP or a ventilator? How did you feel when you saw the equipment?
Updated October 2015.