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Patients wait to 'dive' in the hyperbaric chamber.
Patients wait to 'dive' in the hyperbaric chamber.

Take a dive into hyperbaric medicine at Wesley Centre

HELPING patients presenting with non-healing wounds and post-cancer radiation treatment health issues by boosting the body's intake of oxygen in a controlled environment is a simple way of explaining the science behind the services offered at the Wesley Centre for Hyperbaric Medicine in Brisbane.

The Milton-based Centre, which operates a hyperbaric chamber with three compartments, is able to cater for emergencies such as divers with the "bends", as well as ongoing treatments for a range of medical conditions.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is described as an adjunctive treatment that supports other forms of treatment such as good wound dressings and other medical care to improve a condition.

It is commonly used to treat radiation damage to bone and soft tissue and non-healing wounds such as diabetic leg ulcers and venous leg ulcers.

Treatment involves patients sitting in a pressurised chamber for about 1 hour 40 minutes at a time where they are exposed to concentrations of oxygen up to 15 times higher than they would normally breath outside the chamber.

The effect of the treatment is to boost oxygen concentration in the tissues of the body which can help to reduce swelling, fight infection and build new blood vessels.

Treatment is usually daily for 10-20 treatments with a review held at the end to assess progress.

Wesley Centre doctor Graeme Kay says the process of "diving" in the chamber has been shown to help heal diabetic and radiation injuries more quickly than would normally occur.

"Our body is majority water, so being in the chamber, you're breathing in a gas at high pressure and your body absorbs more of the gas," Dr Kay said.

"So when they're in the chamber, they have up to 15 times the amount of oxygen dissolved in their blood.

"When we stop the treatment, they go from that 15-times amount of blood oxygen content straight back to what it was normally, and it's that drop that recreates that chemical trigger for blood vessel growth to occur."

A recent article in the British Journal of Urology (BJU International Supplement 1, 2018) authored by five medical specialists working for Austin Health in Melbourne Victoria, entitled: Radiation induced haemorrhagic cystitis - achieving a treatment guideline based on the available evidence found hyperbaric oxygen therapy had been used in 50 per cent of the case studies they selected for use in their article. Haemorrhagic cystitis reveals itself as blood in the urine.

The authors, D. Bolton, M. Khan, N. Lawrentschuk, R. Newbold and S.Azer, found "radiation cystitis is an uncommon but important problem facing urologists".

"Of the 42 articles, only one was a randomised controlled trial. The majority of studies were case series or case reports with a significant heterogeneity of treatment indication, treatment protocol and outcome measurements.

"Although 15 different methods of treatment were identified in the studies, the most common treatment modality was hyperbaric oxygen therapy, occupying 21 studies.

"Furthermore, 39 out of 42 studies reported positive findings of the treatment intervention for radiation induced haemorrhagic cystitis."

The Wesley Centre of Hyperbaric Medicine performs more than 4500 treatments each year. It is a fully registered and accredited private day hospital and has contracts with most major health funds. To find out more phone 3371 6033 or see




69-year-old man


2009: Prostate cancer diagnosis - surgery to remove tumour, 8 weeks radiation treatment

2014: Blood clots, blood in urine and constant pressure on his bladder forcing him to go to the toilet often.

2014: Starts hyperbaric treatment

2014: Ruptured blood vessel in bladder diagnosed - urologist operates and fixes the rupture

2015: Man continues hyperbaric treatment - total of 39 dives post-operation. Bleeding decreased and eventually stopped.

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