Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is used to effectively treat sleep apnea, a serious disorder linked to cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders. CPAP machines, used to deliver therapy, are used routinely and easily in homes but can pose special safety risks in a behavioral health setting. CPAP machines present two potentially serious safety concerns in this environment: ligature risk and improper cleaning/disinfecting/storage of medical equipment. CPAPs can be safely used if these two concerns are well-managed.
First, a CPAP’s cords and tubing could be attached to a ligature point. In the field, we have noticed CPAP machines allowed to remain unmonitored in a patient room in a behavioral health facility. While a patient assigned to a room with a CPAP may not be suicidal, the CPAP cords and tubing could be accessible to another patient with suicidal ideation and therefore, pose a risk. Monitoring the patient during use of this equipment when in use should be initiated per policy (including a higher level of patient monitoring such as 1:1 or 1:2) as well as securing the CPAP as soon as use is ended. This is critical to ensure that ligature risk is mitigated with use of this device.
Secondly, cleaning/disinfecting/storing CPAP equipment aligned with infection control practice standards – whether a patient’s own machine or hospital-issued – is an important consideration. Are you cleaning and disinfecting CPAP equipment according to the instructions for use? Are you storing CPAP equipment appropriately to prevent contamination or damage? How do staff know the CPAP is ready for use? We have observed organizations successfully demonstrate proper storage by covering the cleaned/disinfected CPAP with plastic and storing it in the clean equipment room. By consistently following steps of monitoring and storage, CPAPs can be safely used in a behavioral health setting.
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