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Sleep apnea is a condition that causes a child to periodically stop breathing while sleeping. The breathing stops because the throat muscles intermittently relax and block the airway. A positive airway pressure (PAP) device can help provide a constant supply of air, making it easier to breathe during sleep. Common PAP devices include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) and automatic positive airway pressure (AutoPAP).
CPAP therapy is one of the most effective treatment options for obstructive sleep apnea. Untreated sleep apnea prevents restful sleep. This may increase your child’s risk for behavioral and learning problems such as excessive daytime sleepiness and reduced concentration and performance at school.
A CPAP device consists of a pump and a face mask that is connected to the pump. If your child is diagnosed with sleep apnea and the doctor recommends CPAP therapy, he or she will need to wear the face mask at night while sleeping. The pump blows air through the face mask at a low, constant pressure. The pressure of the airflow keeps the breathing passages open and prevents them from closing.
Doctors at Riley at IU Health will first determine if your child will benefit from CPAP therapy. If CPAP therapy is recommended, an order for a CPAP device will be placed through your insurance provider’s home care supplier. Once you receive the CPAP machine, an initial assessment and educational visit will be scheduled for you. During this visit, you and your child will meet with a respiratory therapist CPAP educator.
You and your child will learn how to use the CPAP device, how it benefits your child and how to determine the best and most comfortable fit for the face mask. The respiratory therapist CPAP educator will also show you how to maintain the device at home.
If your child is afraid or resistant to CPAP therapy, a certified sleep medicine psychologist at Riley at IU Health can help him or her become comfortable with the treatment. After your child has successfully used the face mask at home, he or she will return to the sleep laboratory at Riley at IU Health for an overnight sleep study, also called a titration study. The titration study reveals how much airway pressure your child needs to breathe properly and provides an opportunity for your child's care team to adjust the CPAP device and mask for optimal comfort and effectiveness.
To ensure the treatment is working properly and is still needed, a respiratory therapist will periodically check your child’s CPAP therapy and CPAP machine. This can be done at your home or in the doctor's office, whichever is more convenient for you.