CPAP machine

Synonyms: Continuous positive airway pressure machine

Medical Specialties: Internal medicine, Pulmonology

Clinical Definition

A CPAP machine is a medical device that delivers continuous positive airway pressure to the airways. It prevents alveoli collapse during exhalation and increases functional residual capacity in the lungs. 

In Our Own Words

CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure, and a CPAP machine can treat certain types of breathing disorders. It works by delivering a set amount of air pressure into the airways and lungs, which helps keep the airway open and helps you move air in and out more with less blockage, or obstruction. It’s a familiar device for many who have obstructive sleep apnea. CPAP may also be used to treat infants whose lungs have not yet fully developed.


When used at home, a correct pressure is determined by the doctor and programmed into the machine. A small mask goes over the nose, which blows the set air pressure to keep the airway open while you breathe.

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  • Farzan, Sattar, MD, FACP, FCCP A Concise Handbook of Respiratory Diseases. Prentice Hall 1997. Accessed October 2013.
  • NYU Langone Medical Center. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. Accessed October 2013.
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