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Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

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Updated June 24, 2014

A baby wearing a CPAP
David Aaron Troy/Photolibrary/Getty Images
Definition: Continuous positive airway pressure, commonly called CPAP, is a type of respiratory support used in adult and pediatric patients. In premature babies, CPAP is delivered through a set of nasal prongs or through a small mask that fits snugly over a baby’s nose.

Like nasal cannula, CPAP is used to deliver constant air pressure into a baby’s nose, which helps the air sacs in the lungs stay open and helps prevent apnea. CPAP can deliver more pressure than nasal cannula, so is often used in babies who are breathing well enough on their own that they do not need mechanical ventilation, but who need more support than the cannula offers. CPAP can also be used to deliver higher concentrations of oxygen to premature babies who have trouble maintaining good oxygen levels in their blood.

Pronunciation: SEE-pap
Examples:
The baby was on CPAP to help him breathe.
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