Can I use a CPAP with a stuffy nose?

This question was asked in Tustin, California on 03/19/2012.
I have severe nasal congestion as a result of a facial injury that broke my nose. I am concerned that if I use a CPAP machine, I won't receive ample oxygen due to my deviated septum. Will a CPAP machine still work for me?

Doctors Answers (3)

Richard J. Schumann Jr., MD
Answered on: 3/19/2012

The nasal decongestion will make it more difficult to breath using CPAP but using decongesants either oral or inhaled prior to going to bed should remedy this problem If you have a deviated septum from a prior injury you should look into getting this repaired by an ENT physician so your CPAP will be more effective long term. CPAP doesn't deliver oxygen just keeps your airway from collapsing during sleep and you need a clear nasal passage way for it to be most useful.

Farhad Sigari, MD, FACS
Answered on: 3/19/2012

Short answer is yes. Having a stuffy nose is not a contraindication to using a CPAP. If your nose is congested and you can still tolerate the CPAP, then it is fine to use. However, often patients have difficulty tolerating the CPAP if they have significant nasal congestion. In those patients, I can work to correct the abnormal anatomy so they can better tolerate the device. This is definitely the case for those patients that want to use the Nasal Masks vs. the full face masks. Also, once a person has been diagnosed with sleep apnea, CPAP titration is done to determine how much air pressure is required to keep the airway open. It doesn't necessarily provide more oxygen than normal but more air to keep the airway open. So as long as the setting is appropriate the CPAP can still work. Having said all that, one should definitely look into getting the nasal obstruction treated as it can significantly improve their ability to tolerate the CPAP not to mention breathing better during the day. Finally, roughly 10-15 percent of people need to be able to breathe well through their nose to sleep well. Fixing a nasal obstruction in those patients makes a big difference in their sleep.

Marjorie Yong, M.D.
Answered on: 3/19/2012

We will see by testing you... The level of oxygen can during sleep with the cpap machine can tell us if you are receiving enough oxygen.