The CPAP machine blows air at a prescribed pressure (also called the titrated pressure). The necessary pressure is usually determined by a sleep physician after review of a study supervised by a sleep technician during an overnight study (polysomnography) in a sleep laboratory. The titrated pressure is the pressure of air at which most (if not all) apneas and hypopneas have been prevented, and it is usually measured in centimetres of water (cm H2O). The pressure required by most patients with sleep apnea ranges between 6 and 14 cm H2O. A typical CPAP machine can deliver pressures between 4 and 20 cm H2O. More specialised units can deliver pressures up to 25 or 30 cm H2O.
A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine was initially used mainly by patients for the treatment of sleep apnea at home, but now is in widespread use across intensive care units as a form of ventilation.
VPAP or BiPAP (Variable/Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure) provides two levels of pressure: Inspiratory Positive Airway Pressure (IPAP) and a lower Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure (EPAP) for easier exhalation.