Hyperbaric Medicine Unit
Our Hyperbaric Medicine Unit (HMU) is the Western Australian State Referral Service for Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine.
We operate a routine Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment (HBOT) from Monday to Friday between 8am and 4pm, and are available on call after hours 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our HMU team is made up of specially-trained medical, nursing and technical staff who provide HBOT for critical care patients through to paediatric patients.
We have a consultation facility and a hyperbaric oxygen treatment facility with state-of-the-art triple lock recompression chambers and two monoplace chambers.
Hyperbaric medicine is best-known for treating decompression illness (“the bends”), but it is also useful for a far wider range of conditions including:
- arterial gas embolism (AGE), both as a result of diving and medically-induced, e.g. from some types of surgery
- selected problem wounds, e.g. diabetic wounds, non-healing ulcers
- radiation damage to both bone and soft tissue
- gas poisoning, e.g. carbon monoxide
- compromised skin grafts and flaps
- crush injury/compartment syndrome and other acute ischaemias
- clostridial gas gangrene
- necrotising soft tissue infections
- refractory osteomyelitis, and
- sudden loss of hearing.
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.
- Hyper-oxygenation – 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 require 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.