"We get this question a lot: ""What should my prescription say?"". We get it enough that I've decided to write about it. I figure that bandwidth on the internet is cheaper than bandwidth over the phone, so write this down I shall. Of course, if you have any questions about anything - well, actually, let's stick to questions about CPAP stuff - feel free to give us a call. Just don't read this and then call to ask ""what should my prescription say?""!

Let's start with the first step - where to get your prescription for CPAP equipment. You don't need to go to a sleep specialist or pulmonologist, and you don't need to have slept through a sleep study in order to get a prescription for a CPAP machine. You can ask your primary care physician for a prescription. If he's familiar with sleep apnea - both the symptoms and the common characteristics of people who suffer from sleep apnea - and if he's familiar with you and thinks you fit the profile for someone with sleep apnea, he may feel comfortable encouraging you to try CPAP therapy without any further testing. In this case, an automatic CPAP machine would be the best choice since you wouldn't have a recommended pressure setting from a sleep study. Incidentally, if your primary care doctor isn't all that familiar with CPAP therapy, then you can direct him to our article about automatic CPAP machines. This might convince him that a sleep study isn't necessary.

If you've been using CPAP therapy for a while and if your primary doctor is familiar with your condition and knows you suffer from sleep apnea, then he'll more than likely be willing to write a new prescription whenever you request one. You should always ask if you can get an updated prescription without having to go in for an office visit. The doctor likely has nurses or nurse practicioners who have the ability to write prescriptions, and they'll fax one straight to you, or straight to your supplier of choice.

We generally recommend that you ask for the prescription to indicate a duration of ""lifetime"" or for whatever the longest period of time with which your doctor feels comfortable. Sometimes doctors or nurses will write ""99 months"" for the duration. Either way, it's nice to have an open-ended prescription that you can use whenever you need it.

Below, I've listed four examples of prescriptions - one each for CPAP, BiPAP, Auto BiPAP, along with a generic example that would apply to any type of equipment. Keep in mind that all the information provided in these examples isn't necessary (really a prescription just needs to say CPAP equipment, at least) but the details allow us to set the CPAP machine for you before we ship it, and those same details may prove useful when trying to use your prescription at local brick-and-mortar suppliers as well as when trying to obtain insurance reimbursement for the equipment you purchase.

Sample Prescription for CPAP Machine
CPAP 10cm H2O

Heated Humidifier

Nasal Mask

Duration: as needed for lifetime

Note that the units of pressure are represented by cm H2O, or centimeters of water. If a prescription indicates only ""CPAP 10"", then it's calling for a CPAP machine set at 10 centimeters of water.

Sample Prescription for BiPAP Machine
BiPAP IPAP 12 cm, EPAP 6 cm2O

Note that a prescription written specifically for a BiPAP machine should indicate the inhalation pressure (or IPAP) as well as the exhalation pressure (or EPAP). If you or your doctor don't know what these should be because you haven't been evaluated in a sleep study, then you should opt for an automatic BiPAP machine.

Sample Prescription for Automatic BiPAP Machine
Auto BiPAP

IPAP Max 15 cm

EPAP Min 4 cm

Pressure Support 6 cm

Full Face Mask

Heated Humidifier if Needed Duration: 99 months

In the example above, the pressure support indicates the pressure differential between IPAP and EPAP. So, if the machine is delivering an inhalation pressure of 14 cm, the exhalation pressure will be 6 units less than that, or 8 cm.

Sample Generic Prescription
CPAP, Auto CPAP, BiPAP or Auto BiPAP

10 cm H2O

Patient May Adjust

Please Provide Clinician Manual

Mask, Humidifier, Supplies as Needed

This is useful because it allows you the freedom to choose whatever equipment you want, it gives you explicit permission to adjust the pressure setting (presumably within reason and under doctor's orders), and calls for all the equipment you'll ever need.

Sample Simple Prescription
CPAP machine and supplies as needed

The drawback to this example prescription is that it doesn't include a pressure setting, so we can't adjust the pressure on the CPAP machine before we ship it to you. However, if you already have a CPAP machine and you've faxed us a prescription like the one above in order to buy a replacement CPAP machine, then you can either call us to tell us your pressure setting, or you can include your existing pressure setting in the order comments field on the checkout page when you place your order.

All prescriptions should be written on a normal prescription form and should be signed by the doctor or qualified nurse practicioner. You can fax a prescription to us at 509-448-1540, or you can

Feel free to contact us if you have any comments or questions about CPAP prescriptions. We look forward to hearing from you!

Andrew Senske

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."

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