Hyperbaric Medicine

The Hyperbaric Medicine Service provides a statewide service, treating people with decompression illness, chronic wounds, radiation injuries and serious soft tissue infections. We provide a 24 hour on call service, supporting Queensland’s recreational and commercial dive industries. Our comprehensive facility is the one of two publicly funded hyperbaric units in Queensland.

Our services

Our team of specially trained medical, nursing and technical staff provide oxygen therapy to both inpatients and outpatients.

We have a state-of-the-art triple lock rectangular clinical hyperbaric chamber, which is one of the largest in the southern hemisphere. We also operate a Sechrist monoplace (single person) chamber.

Full list of services

Frequently asked questions

Hyperbaric oxygen treatment is the inhalation of 100% oxygen inside a treatment chamber at a pressure greater than sea level.

Breathing in an increased oxygen concentration under pressure is beneficial as it:

  • increases the amount of oxygen in the blood
  • stimulates the growth of new blood vessels
  • reduces tissue swelling
  • decreases free gas in the body
  • slows the production of toxins and kills anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that do not live or grow in the presence of oxygen)
  • promotes healing by increasing oxygen flow to blood deprived tissue

Hyperbaric medicine is best known for treating decompression illness (the bends). It is also useful for treating a range of conditions including:

  • Arterial gas embolism both as a result of diving and medically induced (e.g. from some types of surgery).
  • Arterial insufficiencies including acute retinal artery or vein occlusion (within 12 hours of onset).
  • Selected problem wounds where hypoxia can be demonstrated (e.g. diabetic wounds and non-healing ulcers).
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Crush injuries and skeletal muscle compartment syndromes.
  • Clostridial myonecrosis (gas gangrene).
  • Compromised skin flaps and grafts.
  • Refractory mycoses.
  • Refractory osteomyelitis.
  • Delayed radiation injuries (soft tissue and bony necrosis).
  • Idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Intracranial abscess.
  • Necrotising soft tissue infections.
  • Severe anaemia.
  • Thermal burns.

The number of treatments you will need depends on the medical condition being treated. On average, most patient conditions need 20-40 treatments.

  • Please arrive 30 minutes before your appointment to get ready and for a pre-treatment check-in.
  • A specialist hyperbaric doctor will assess your fitness before your first treatment.
  • You will be shown how to clear (or equalise) your ears.
  • You will be asked to change into cotton clothing.
  • Some items are not allowed in the chamber.
  • You will be asked to remove:
    • lighters, matches and smoking products
    • make-up, perfumes, aftershaves and hair spray/oil
    • creams, lotions, liniments and ointments
    • petroleum or Vaseline products
    • wigs or hairpieces
    • battery operated or electrical devices
    • synthetics (rayon, nylon etc.) including pantyhose
    • hard contact lenses
    • newspapers
  •  Deodorant is permitted in the multiplace chamber.

Compression phase (beginning of treatment)

  • It will be noisy due to pressurised air entering the chamber compartment.
  • The temperature will warm up and drop to a comfortable level.
  • You will feel the change and pressure in your ears, similar to when descending in an aircraft.
  • You will be asked to clear your ears to avoid discomfort. If you do have discomfort, please notify your nurse immediately.

Decompression phase (end of treatment)

  • The temperature will become colder as air exits the chamber compartment.
  • You should feel your ears popping during this phase and you should not have to actively equalise your ears.
  • In this phase the pressure changes in your ear, similar to when you drive up a mountain range.
  • If you feel uncomfortable during the treatment, please talk to the hyperbaric nurse.
  • You can read, rest, sleep, watch a movie or listen to a CD through the audio system when you are in the multiplace chamber.
  • No reading material is allowed in the monoplace chamber but you can watch a movie, rest or sleep.

  • The hyperbaric doctor will discuss potential uncommon side effects like change in vision.
  • We encourage plenty of rest and healthy eating when you return home.
  • Smoking and the use of tobacco products is discouraged.
  • Our hyperbaric nurses will check on you daily to make sure you are well and fit for your next treatment.

How to access this service

GP or medical practitioner referral

To access this service, your GP or medical practitioner will need to send a referral letter to the hospital.

If there is a waiting list, you will receive a confirmation letter and be advised on what to do next. If there is no waiting list, you will receive an appointment booking letter or we will contact you to arrange a suitable time for your appointment.

For elective treatment, a referral letter or the referral form should be completed and sent via fax or email to the Hyperbaric Medicine Service.

Inpatient referral

We accept internal referrals through the Chronic Wound Management Clinic. We also provide a 24/7 service to the Emergency Department.

Refer a patient

GP and Specialist Hotline:
1300 364 938

Health professionals:
More information

What to bring

Each time you visit us
  • Your Medicare card
  • Private health insurance card (if you have one)
  • Health Care Card and/or concession card (if you have one)
  • Current medications (prescription, over the counter and herbal medicine)
  • Relevant x-rays, scans or any other test results or reports
  • Glasses, hearing and mobility aids
For an outpatient or clinic appointment
  • Your appointment letter
  • Any special items listed on your letter
  • WorkCover claim number (if relevant)
  • Snacks, a drink or money to buy refreshments
  • Something to read or do while you wait

Clinics

Ned Hanlon Building

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Contact us

Location: Ground floor, Ned Hanlon Building
Phone: (07) 3646 0241
Fax: (07) 3646 0747
Email:
Open: Monday-Friday 7.30am-4.30pm

Need help outside hours?

For non-urgent medical issues call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) or visit your GP.

In an emergency call 000.

Refer a patient

To refer a patient, view the Hyperbaric Medicine referral guideline.

For an existing referral call 1300 364 938

Health professionals

The RBWH Hyperbaric Medicine Service is a statewide comprehensive facility, treating people with decompression illness, chronic wounds, radiation injuries and serious soft-tissue infections. The service provides a 24 hour on call capability and supports the Queensland recreational and commercial dive industries. Other conditions treated are outlined by the international body the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine Society.

Our state-of-the-art, triple lock, rectangular clinical hyperbaric chamber is one of the largest in the southern hemisphere. We also operate a Sechrist monoplace chamber. We are the second publicly funded hyperbaric facility in Queensland.

We adhere to the AS/NZS 4774.2 and NFPA 99 and comply with Australian Medicare requirements for billing. We are recognised as a training site by the Australian College of Emergency Medicine and the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists. Our team consists of specially trained medical, nursing and technical staff.

What is hyperbaric oxygen treatment?

Hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT) is the administration of 100% oxygen at a pressure greater than atmospheric pressure at sea level. HBOT has multiple effects on the body which include:

Pressure

Any free gas in the body will decrease in volume as pressure exerted on it increases (Boyle’s Law of Physics). This is useful in the treatment of decompression sickness (the bends) and arterial gas embolism.

Hyperoxygenation

The elevated pressure increases the amount of oxygen present in the blood 10 to 13 times its normal level (Henry’s Law of Physics). The elevated level of oxygen supports tissues without enough oxygen (usually as a result of marginal blood flow) and enhances connective tissue regeneration through stimulation of fibroblast growth (which requires oxygen to replicate) and increased collagen formation. Flooding the body with oxygen also forces out toxins like carbon monoxide.

Vasoconstriction

Elevated oxygen levels cause blood vessels to narrow (vasoconstriction), which causes reduced blood flow without reducing tissue oxygenation because of the extra oxygen in the blood. This aids by reducing oedema (tissue swelling) in compartment syndrome, crush injuries and in soft tissue infections such as necrotising fasciitis.

Angiogenesis

HBOT promotes the growth of new micro blood vessels in ischaemic (oxygen-deprived) tissues.

Bactericidal

Saturating the tissues with oxygen slows the production of certain toxins and is effective in killing anaerobic bacteria. Many of the body’s bacterial defence mechanisms are oxygen dependent. Increasing tissue oxygen also increases the effectiveness of leucocytes (white blood cells responsible for killing bacteria). Because of this, HBOT is used in the treatment of gas gangrene and necrotising infections.

Anti-ischaemic

Hyperbaric oxygen physically dissolves extra oxygen into the plasma (Henry’s Law). The quantity of oxygen carried to blood-deprived tissue is increased thus promoting healing.