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  Netcare St Augustine's Hospital Hyperbaric Medicine Centre

The St Augustine?s Hospital Hyperbaric Medicine Centre was officially opened in late 2000.


In November 2000 this centre became Durban?s first hospital-based hyperbaric oxygen therapy centre, and only South Africa?s second such centre with multi place chamber.

Strategically placed in Netcare St Augustine?s Hospital below the level 1 Trauma unit and in close proximity to the operating theatres and ICU, this centre is ideally situated to attend to any of the clinical indications for hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

The centre houses a ten-man multi place chamber, certified to a pressure of 7 ATA (equivalent to a dept of 60m of seawater!). The chamber has a custom-built ?walk-in? door, allowing for the easy access of wheelchair and trolley patients. Also, the chamber is well equipped for the management of ventilated patients requiring intensive care-level monitoring. The chamber and the control panel were manufactured in South Africa under the ASME II and PVHO guidelines.

Patients are treated under the supervision of hyperbaric medicine physicians, Drs Michael Marshall and Craig Springate. Qualified technical and nursing personnel, who operate the chamber and tend to the patients during the treatments, staff the centre. The centre is on 24 hours standby throughout the year for any diving or medical emergency that may require hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment
By definition, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is the breathing of 100 percent oxygen at an increased pressure, to achieve its medicinal effect. At high oxygen tissue tensions, only achieved by exposure in a compression chamber, oxygen attains pharmacological properties. The effects of HBOT include:

Hyperoxygenation of tissues

  • Reduced tissue swelling
  • New blood vessel formation (ie. neovascularisation)
  • Enhanced immune responses
  • Attenuated ischaemia-reperfusion injury
  • Altered pressure and gas gradients

The practice HBOT is based on the scientific literature on the subject, regularly reviewed in the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society's Committee Report. This, "evidence-based medicine", document currently lists thirteen conditions for which there is sufficient scientific proof that HBOT is an effective treatment modality.

There are 13 scientifically proven conditions for which HBO is effective

  • Air or gas embolism suffered by deep sea divers, or during brain and cardiac surgery.
  • Decompression sickness, also known as 'the bends'.
  • Carbon monoxide and cyanide poisoning and smoke inhalation.
  • Gas gangrene.
  • Non healing wounds due to resistant infections or circulatory problems such as chronic diabetic and varicose vein ulcers, bed sores. etc.
  • Crush and traumatic injuries and limb swelling cutting off blood supply known as 'compartment syndrome'.
  • Excessive blood loss where transfusions are impossible due to medical or religious reasons.
  • Destructive or necrotising soft tissue infections.
  • Persistent bone infections or delayed healing of fractures.
  • Damage of healthy soft tissue and bone due to radiotherapy for cancer.
  • Failing skin grafts, plastic surgery involving flaps and replants where the viability of the nerve, bone, muscle and skin is doubtful or threatened.
  • Thermal burns where the injuries are extensive or complications are likely.
  • Brain abscesses.

There are a number of other conditions, for example, sports injuries, stroke, sever head injuries, etc. for which the use is being researched.

Treatment details
HBO Therapy involves a daily course of treatments (between one and three a day) each usually lasting 120 minutes. The total number of treatments depends on the medical problem and may vary between one and thirty sessions. You will always be accompanied inside the chamber by a hyperbaric attendant who has specialised knowledge and training. You will be fully informed on all aspects regarding the practical implications of HBO. HBO therapy aims at healing your problem in a calm and comfortable environment and everything possible will be done to ensure this. You nevertheless have the right to terminate the therapy at any stage if you wish, even during treatment.

All inflammable goods are prohibited within the chamber. This also means that your clothing must not be made of synthetic materials, but rather of natural fabrics such as cotton. To avoid fire hazards, no inflammable substances are allowed in the chamber, and all pockets must be emptied before each treatment.

No cigarettes, matches, lighters, watches, pens, radios, shoes or any accessories whatsoever are permitted in the hyperbaric chamber!
You will breathe pure oxygen under pressurised conditions during your treatment. All you need to do is breathe normally. You may read or listen to music. Fruit juice and cold water will be provided.

Should you have any problems at any time, simply speak to the hyperbaric attendant in the chamber.

Hyperbaric Medicine Centre
St Augustine's Hospital
107 Chelmsford Road

PO Box 30105

Cato Road
Entrance No. 4
Telephone:  +27 31 268 5255
Facsimile:  +27 31 202 1709
Client Services: +27 31 268 5083

EMailL: hyperbarics@worldonline.co.za