Should I buy a sleep apnea CPAP/APAP machine in Canada or the US?
August 23, 2011 9:09 AM   Subscribe

Should I buy a sleep apnea CPAP/APAP machine in Canada or the US?

Just been double-diagnosed (once in spring and just now for 2nd opinion) with sleep apnea - fairly bad at that.

Everyone I have talked to about it seems to indicate that surgery is a crapshoot and definately no guarantee.

So, I need a machine. Canadian health-care does not cover this (well, maybe in other provinces, for lower income people, but definately not for me), the cost of machines here are well over $ 2,000. I am fairly certain that these are identical to machines in the US, just twice the price - and considering our dollar is essentially "at par", why would I spend another extra $1,000 just to buy locally?

Am I wrong? Is it worth it in terms of "follow-up" care from a local, Canadian provider? (Because, I do have an actual doctor, that is referring me to a private company for the machine...)
posted by jkaczor to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I know this is not your question but CPAP/APA machines have notoriously low compliance rates. Most people can't or won't use them every night. People use them for a short time and then they start to collect more dust than bread machines and stationary bikes.

If there is a sleep study center near you, I would try using one there for a few nights to see if you can realistically use one night after night. They are bulky, uncomfortable, noisy and awkward, especially if you turn frequently during sleep. You may find that you've spent one to two thousand dollars on a machine you're not really going to use.
posted by shoesietart at 9:20 AM on August 23, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks shoesietart - however, I just went through the sleep center for the secondary diagnosis. (And the cost of that is also not covered by public health-care)

Previous to that, I had tried a machine (rental) and the result was exactly as you described - I tried using it 2-3 times, it was uncomfortable, loud, constricting (I turn and roll) and ultimately gathered dust for 2 months until I had to return it.

Personally - I am 39-years old and am not looking forward to strapping myself into a machine for the rest of my life, every single night.

The cynic in me says the whole thing is a "racket" - that the doctors must own/participate with the local private companies. (The inital diagnosis was from a local private company and the immediate response was for me to buy a machine - I wanted a 2nd opinion, to explore other treatment alternatives and here I am, back to a machine referral)
posted by jkaczor at 9:27 AM on August 23, 2011

Buy one used? I think a lot of people (my dad included) buy them and never really use them. He was trying to sell his a while back - memail me if you want me to check if he still is.
posted by whalebreath at 9:32 AM on August 23, 2011

My experience with the machine has been nothing but positive. I've used 'em for about ten years, every night, and it has made an incredible difference from the first night! I had no trouble at all adjusting to it, and what noise it does produce (not much) doesn't bother me.
I'd second the used market. The mask, however, should be new- and you should check out the options available. I've found that the nasal mask works best for me, I don't like full- face masks (beard!) or the sort that "plug into" yer nose.
posted by drhydro at 9:47 AM on August 23, 2011

I was going to say what whalebreath did--you might be able to find one used. A friend of mine who was commuting back and forth between two cities bought a duplicate of hers on eBay--the listing got axed because eBay doesn't allow medical equipment to be sold, but she and the seller made a private deal.

I wouldn't hesitate to buy from the US. I've used a CPAP machine for four years, and have never needed any kind of follow-up for the machine itself. I have bought supplies (replacement masks, and so on) both from a local medical supply company and from, with no problem.

When I first got my machine, it took me months to get used to it--I had trouble with leaks, I was one of those people who took it off in my sleep. It was hard to stick with it but has been worth it in the long run.
posted by not that girl at 9:54 AM on August 23, 2011

for the record, in a small group of friends I have 2 friends who have them and love them. As we all go away to a camp sometimes, the rest of us love them too.
posted by sully75 at 9:56 AM on August 23, 2011

Purely anecdotal: Mr. Adams finally did the sleep study thing two years ago after our regular doctor determined that many of his most recent complaints were from lack of sleep. He was diagnosed with sleep apnea and then referred to a neurologist. When recommending "where to buy" a CPAP, she asked where we lived and then looked to see which suppliers were nearest us. I don't know if it was because our machine was covered by insurance or not, but we were not able to just walk in and buy a machine, we had to schedule an appointment at Binson's and then spend an hour or so with a rep who assembled the machine and fired it up to show us how it worked, how to use the controls, etc. She also tried several different styles of mask on Mr. Adams to see which fit best, was most comfortable.

Mr. Adams goes through periodic spurts where he decides the CPAP is too much hassle/too uncomfortable and doesn't use it. But he gets a very solid night's sleep when he does use it, so after a week of collecting dust he'll fire it up again and use it for several weeks. It's a cycle - he feels so lousy after a week of interrupted sleep that he'll machine up again and get some good, healthful sleep. But then after two weeks or more of feeling "normal" in the morning, he forgets how crappy he felt without using the machine and just notes the inconvenience and says "the heck with it."
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:57 AM on August 23, 2011

Buying a used one is a good idea. I used one when I was in the hospital last year for asthma and mentioned it to a friend of mine. He offered me his machine but I didn't take him up on it. He'd sell his as it's collecting dust too. If whalebreath's dad or another source doesn't work out, memail and I'll put you in touch with my friend.

But if you couldn't/didn't use a rental are you really going to use one that you pay for? Have you looked at CPAP alternatives like oral appliances?
posted by shoesietart at 9:57 AM on August 23, 2011 has used machines, as long as you send them a valid prescription.

Or MeMail me and I'll sell you mine. Heh.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:01 AM on August 23, 2011

Best answer: As a sleep apnea sufferer who has used a CPAP for 5 years, I want to throw in my 2 cents.

If you go into it with the attitude that "This is going to be uncomfortable and I don't want to have to use it for the rest of my life," then, surprise surprise, you're going to find it hard to get used to.

I'm not going to lie to you and say it feels good. I don't go to bed at night thinking, "ah, it's so nice to put this mask on my face." But I do it every night because if I don't, I definitely feel zombified the next day. I actually don't think the mask is uncomfortable - the only thing I don't like about it is that it forces me to sleep on my back, when I can fall asleep so much easier on my stomach. Oh well, what am I gonna do? Life's a bitch.

I've said this before in another comment somewhere - a comedian once did a routine asking "Why do people bother getting nice furniture or decorations for their bedroom? Most of the time you're in there, you have your eyes closed." By the same token, why worry about having a mask on your face when most of the time you will be unconscious while wearing it?

It took me several weeks to really get used to it, to the point where I could fall asleep within a few minutes with the mask on. But I simply decided, "I'm going to get used to this, no matter what it takes. I WILL get used to it." Like Yoda said, "Do or do not. There is no try."

I know that many people have decided that they just can't wear the mask and would rather do with out it. I won't pass judgement on their situations - I'm sure that many of them really and truly did make a serious effort. But I think there are also likely many people who didn't - they wore the mask for one or two nights and thought, "Ugh, this is inconvenient" and then gave up. And now they are walking around zombified.

MefiMail me if you want some tips for getting used to it.
posted by LaurenIpsum at 10:14 AM on August 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: My advice is to buy a used CPAP in the US from Second Wind CPAP in Minnesota.

I've been using a CPAP since 1999. My Tranquility Quest gave up the ghost a few years ago, and I didn't feel like shelling out $1000 US again for a new CPAP unit. IANAD, but I know what my pressure level should be, so it was just a matter of finding a CPAP.

I looked up used CPAP, and found Second Wind CPAP in Minnesota. The site is run by a sleep tech who spoke to me on the phone very patiently, and answered all my questions. He cleans and refurbishes used units. I bought 2 Respironics CPAP machines for about $300 US each. You don't need a prescription, and he will ship internationally. You can get a CPAP unit like mine for $150 US now because it has been discontinued.
posted by Rob Rockets at 10:27 AM on August 23, 2011

Best answer: Just because OTHER people don't use them, doesn't mean that YOU have to risk your brain, heart, driving record, relationships, etc. and ALSO not use one! Many people use theirs every night. There are lots of different mask styles (unfortunately, they're all expensive) that you can go through till you find one that works. The difference when you wake up is worth it for many people. Also, you know, lowering your risk of DEATH, your risk of crashing your car, your risk of high blood pressure, your ability to make decisions, etc. etc.

In terms of the Canada/purchase question, CPAP Talk is a great place to ask! People there can even help with things like getting the software for the models that let you read the data yourself, adjusting the ones that are not supposed to be user-adjusted, etc. There may also be some unofficial trades or sales there (I forget how much they can do within the extent of the law about medical device resale/trade).

And it's normal to not be able to use one successfully for the first few nights. Many people take the mask off in their sleep for the first couple of weeks, for example, but eventually become OK with it.

Good luck--please stick with this and don't take chances with your heart and brain!

P. S. When you say "everyone" you've talked to about surgery, do you mean doctors or random people? The surgery and oral appliance options are heavily dependent on the individual's cause of the sleep apnea problem. Surgery has fairly good rates of success for some people, but you would have to talk to a specialist (a sleep doctor, an ENT, or whoever depending) to find out.
posted by wintersweet at 12:36 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow - lots of responses - thank-you!

(Going to be tough to determine best answers :-) )

Ultimately, I am happy to say that cost is not really an issue (because if I am functioning very well without sleep, imagine how much better I will be with it...) - but it just the "principle" of paying more, for the same thing just because I am Canadian (see also; book prices...).

(And, I wouldn't hesitate spending that kind of money for a new computer, if it was for work... for my health? sigh, mixed-up priorities I guess)

Last night, during the sleep study, I had absolutely no issues with the mask or the machine (went to sleep fairly quickly and felt refreshed in the morning) - now, if only I can have that kind of success at home...

When you say "everyone" you've talked to about surgery, do you mean doctors or random people?

Doctors, aids/assistants/nurses at the study facility, the respiratory technicians at the first company - basically, everyone with a direct interest. They all basically said; "your apnea is too severe" and/or "with surgery, once the scar tissue builds up, you could be facing apnea again".

Was referred for a dental appliance preliminary visit, but have not been contacted yet - again a custom dental appliance will cost about the same as a machine...

So, I am pleased to hear about the number of success stories... It appears that attitude is key... Hmmm, perhaps I need to re-think mine.... I always said I wanted to be a cyborg and would be first in-line for augmented replacement parts.... ;-)
posted by jkaczor at 1:22 PM on August 23, 2011

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