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Breathing support for people with ALS

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What is non-invasive ventilation (NIV)?

Non-invasive ventilation, or NIV, is a special type of medical equipment that can help you breathe. It’s called “non-invasive” because you don’t have to have surgery to start using it.

NIV devices go by a few different names, and some devices have different features and settings. The most common names you’ll hear are BiPAP (bi-level positive airway pressure), VPAP (variable positive airway pressure) and home ventilator.

Your pulmonologist will figure out which NIV device is right for you and what settings to use on the device. They will order the device through a medical equipment company. Once you get your NIV device, a respiratory therapist will set it up and train you and your caregiver on how to use it.

A woman sits on the side of her bed holding an NIV mask.

Why do some people with ALS have trouble breathing on their own?

ALS makes the muscles in your chest weaker, which can make it harder to breathe. Your ALS care team may call this “respiratory muscle weakness.”

Some people may start having trouble breathing soon after they’re diagnosed with ALS. For others, it can happen after years of living with ALS.

If you’ve talked to your ALS care team about NIV, you may already know about these options. You can skip ahead to answer a few questions about what matters most to you.

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