How Often Should CPAP Equipment Be Replaced?
By Andrew Senske, President CPAP-Supply.com
Last Updated 03/26/2010 3:35:00 PM


How often should CPAP equipment be replaced?

This is a great question that we get from customers every single day. How long various CPAP supplies should last isn't always readily apparent to CPAP users. Most manuals for CPAP masks, CPAP humidifiers and CPAP machines don't necessarily indicate how long the equipment should last, or a replacement schedule for "wear parts" - that is, for parts that are known to wear out and need replacing, like CPAP mask cushions.

I've touched on this topic before in other articles like 5 Tips for Improved CPAP Therapy, but I haven't yet created a comprehensive guideline for replacing CPAP supplies. That is, until today.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) - the federal agency which administers Medicare and Medicade - have established a reimbursement schedule for CPAP machines and CPAP supplies. That reimbursement schedule is shown below:

CMS (Medicare) Recommendations for CPAP Supply Replacement

ItemHCPCS CodeReplacement Schedule
Full Face Mask A7030 90 days
Full Face Cushion A7031 30 days
Nasal Cushion A7032 30 days
Replacement Pillow A7033 30 days
CPAP Mask A7034 90 days
CPAP Headgear A7035 180 days
CPAP Chinstrap A7036 180 days
CPAP Tubing A7037 30 days
Disposable Filter A7038 30 days
Non-disposable Filters A7039 180 days
Oral Interface A7044 90 days
Heated Humidifier E0562 5 Years
CPAP Machine E0601 5 Years

This standard is sometimes used by private insurance companies, although private insurance companies have increasingly moved away from a rigid reimbursement schedule like this one, to plans that simply cover up to a certain amount for CPAP equipment every year, regardless of the specific items being covered. Obviously, that makes a lot more sense because you might need a replacement mask often, but you may only need a tube every couple of years. Also, even though CPAP machines generally last around 5 years, yours might not, and you might need a new CPAP machine within 5 years of the purchase date of your last CPAP machine.

You'll note a bit of waste of taxpayer dollars in the chart above. No one needs a new tube every month, and hardly anyone needs a new nasal cushion every month. This is, nevertheless, what taxpayers must pay for. You can be sure that most equipment suppliers use this reibursment schedule to their advantage and not to yours! (But that's a topic for a different article.)

So, here's CPAP-Supply.com's own recommendations for replacing CPAP supplies.

Full Face Mask: The full face mask itself (i.e. the hard plastic components) should last much longer than 90 days. Many CPAP users replace the hard plastic components of a mask every year or so.

Full Face Cushion: If your full face mask cushion is only lasting 30 days, you're probably doing something wrong. While it's a given that silicone cushions will begin to oxidize on contact with air, and that said oxidation will eventually cause a decline in the sealing characteristics of the cushion, our experience is that most silicone cushions will last 3 to 6 months before significant degradation in cushion performance. Of course, this varies with each individual user, and factors such as skin condition and the level of maintenance (i.e. cleaning, safe storage, etc.) will certainly affect the longevity of the cushion.

Nasal Cushion: See comments for Full Face Cushion.

Replacement Pillow: This refers to the pillow cushions that come with nasal pillow masks like the Swift FX. See comments for Full Face Cushion. Silicone is silicone.

CPAP Mask: See comments for Full Face Mask. Keep in mind, too, that it's generally more cost-effective to buy a complete mask system that includes all mask component, rather than buying individual components separately. With that said you probably shouldn't need a new complete mask kit more often than every three to four months. Like the Full Face Mask, the hard plastic components (i.e. the frame, elbow and forehead support) of most masks will last for a very long time. Up to a year or so. Of course, certain components on some masks will break after repeated use, but those incidents are exceptions and usually only occur in masks with poor designs.

CPAP Headgear: Six months on headgear seems appropriate since over time headgear tends to stretch out, and the hook-and-loop closure can begin to fray. Headgear can be washed relatively easily, though, so if you don't tend to stretch yours out then it may very well last longer than six months. Again, if you opt for buying a complete mask kit every three to four months, then usually the headgear strap will be included.

CPAP Chinstrap: Similar to the CPAP headgear, the CPAP chinstrap may stretch and fray. It might stretch more quickly than a headgear strap because a chinstrap is often worn tighter than headgear straps. We recommend three to six months for chin straps.

CPAP Tubing: CPAP tubing can be replaced every five years, coinciding with the purchase of a new CPAP machine (because new CPAP machines come with new tubing). You should wash the CPAP tubing regularly. If you've got cats or dogs as pets - and if those cats and dogs have sharp teeth and claws - then your tubing might not make it more than a few months. The good news is that CPAP tubing is relatively inexpensive (unless the government is paying for it - then it's around $40 or more). CPAP users who use a humidifier might be inclined to replace the CPAP tube ofen because of concern of bacteria living in the tube. With frequent washing this shouldn't be too much of a concern. If you use a humidifier and don't want to wash your tube regularly, then by all means you should get a new tube more often than every five years!

Disposable Filter: We generally tell CPAP users that disposable filters like the white ultra-fine filters available for some CPAP machines last 2 to 3 months. We also tell them that the longevity of the filter is based in part on the environment in which the CPAP machine is being used. If the environment is particularly humid or dusty, then the disposable filter won't last as long. Visual inspection is the key to determining dispoable filter life. Think of it like you think of the air filter in your car, or your furnace filter. You probably replace those as needed instead of on a rigid schedule, and you probably look at those filters to determine if they need to be replaced.

Non-Disposable Filter: Non-disposable filters like the foam filters available for most CPAP machines can be washed and reused over and over again. This type of filter only needs to be replaced when the foam material starts to break down. As with the disposable filter, you'll need to visually inspect the foam filter to determine when it needs to be replaced. More frequent and/or vigorous rinsing or washing will reduce filter life. A typical foam filter will likely last a year or more. They'll certainly last six months under most conditions.

Oral Interface: See comments for Full Face Mask. Incidentally, the only CPAP mask we sell currently that falls into this category is the Fisher & Paykel Oracle CPAP mask with headgear.

Heated Humidifier: Use it 'til it breaks. Typical lifespan is similar to that of a CPAP machine, although the warranty period for humidifiers is generally a year less than that of CPAP machines. You'll know your humidifier is broken when the heater plate no longer heats up. For humidifiers with variable heat settings the different heat settings might have no effect. For example, if the heater plate is super hot on the lowest heat setting, or when the heat is turned off, your heated humidifier is broken.

CPAP Machine: We talk to hundreds of CPAP users a week, and every so often we talk to someone who has been using the same CPAP machine for the last 15 years or even longer. While that's not entirely typical, it is possible for CPAP machines to last that long. The typical life span of a CPAP machine is 5 to 7 years. We highly recommend getting a backup CPAP machine especially if your current CPAP machine is more than a couple of years old. That way you'll never be without a CPAP machine, even when one of yours stops working.

Now, let me make it more simple. Since most people don't buy just the frame of a mask when they're going to replace their nasal or full face mask. I'll ignore those types of components as they're listed on the CMS reibursment schedule. Look at the simpler chart below:

CPAP-Supply.com's Recommendations for CPAP Supply Replacement

ItemHCPCS CodeCPAP-Supply.com Recommended Replacement Schedule
Full Face Cushion A7031 3 - 6 months
Nasal Cushion A7032 3 - 6 months
Replacement Pillow A7033 3 - 6 months
Entire Mask Kit -- 3 - 6 months
CPAP Headgear A7035 4 - 6 months
CPAP Chinstrap A7036 4 - 6 months
CPAP Tubing A7037 5 years
Disposable Filter A7038 2 - 3 months
Non-disposable Filters A7039 6 months
Heated Humidifier E0562 5 Years, backup recommended within 2 years
CPAP Machine E0601 5 Years, backup recommended within 2 years

If you have any questions about your CPAP equipment in particular, or if you have equipment maintenance suggestions - ideas to make CPAP equipment last even longer - feel free to contact us by phone, email or live chat.

Andrew Senske
President
www.cpap-supply.com

CPAP-Supply.com is a leading online retailer of CPAP equipment. Located in Spokane, WA CPAP-Supply.com has been serving thousands of customers around the world since 2001. Founded on a belief that patients are their own best primary care providers, CPAP-Supply.com understands the importance of educating patients and customers on both the effects of and treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. For more information visit CPAP-Supply.com or call toll free 1-888-955-2727.