Good Question: Can CPAP machines help save coronavirus patients?

Brennan Somers
Updated: March 25, 2020 08:42 AM
Created: March 25, 2020 07:30 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — There's a critical shortage right now, and here's the problem. Ventilators are the last resort to keep COVID-19 patients with failing lungs alive.

Top lawmakers from New York are calling on the White House to order companies to make this critical equipment, or hospitals will run out of everything they need.


"This is not the way to do it," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a recent press conference. "I am bidding up other states on the prices."

The state is already buying thousands of ventilators on its own.

Health experts are also investigating whether multiple patients can be served by a single device. 

But are there any suitable replacements?

A viewer asked News10NBC’s Brennan Somers: Can CPAP machines be used as a ventilator? If so, couldn't that be used to release [help] the shortage?

News10NBC got the answer from Andrea Hoffmann at Rochester Oxygen and CPAP.

“No, no, it cannot," Hoffmann said. "A CPAP machine simply provides continuous positive airway pressure, and it will not ventilate a patient. A CPAP is generally used for obstructive sleep apnea, so that's why a patient would have it. It would be to treat their obstructive sleep apnea, which again, just provides a positive pressure and keeps the airway open.”

It's a no for being a straight swap for what's needed to save patients during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, just this week the FDA offered some leeway for CPAP machines and other similar devices.

The agency is allowing hospitals and healthcare facilities to make tweaks to FDA-cleared products to help support patients depending on their condition, and they must be watched closely.

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