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Hyperbaric Medicine

The Christchurch Hyperbaric Medicine Unit treats a range of conditions ranging from decompression sickness and air embolism through to radiation injury and hypoxic problem wounds.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy delivers oxygen under pressure to body tissues. The combination of pressure and high partial pressures of oxygen are the primary treatment for decompression sickness and arterial gas embolism. This form of therapy is a very useful adjunct to medical and surgical care in other conditions such as radiation injury and hypoxic problem wounds. The oxygen speeds up new microscopic blood vessel growth in certain types of wound and improves the ability of white blood cells to kill germs.


We are located on the lower-ground floor, Parkside West, Christchurch Hospital, near the western lifts.

Mission Statement

To provide high quality patient care based on a strong commitment to practice, education, research innovation and collaboration within the Hyperbaric Medicine Unit.


The following conditions are treated at the Hyperbaric Medicine Unit:


The Hyperbaric Medicine Unit is staffed by a team of doctors, drawn from various departments (Emergency Medicine, General Practice and Anaesthesia) on a sessional basis, with Dr Greg van der Hulst as the Unit Clinical Director.

Technical Officers​, in charge of the equipment and hyperbaric chamber.

Registered Nurses both part time and casual. Lorraine Angus is our current Charge Nurse.


Hyperbaric medicine began in Christchurch in 1973 with a trial of hyperbaric oxygen (HBOT) to enhance radiotherapy for patients with head and neck cancers. It was also used to treat acute problems such as decompression sickness, gas gangrene and carbon monoxide poisoning.

In the late 1970s, the local diving community raised the money for a dual-lock chamber which was donated to the North Canterbury Hospital Board. This operated at The Princess Margaret Hospital from October 1979 until 1994.

In late 1995, the chamber and associated plant were moved to Christchurch Hospital, allowing better access to core services such as radiology and intensive care. The unit provided emergency care and treated a few patients with problem wounds. In November 2000, the old chamber was replaced with a new, rectangular, walk-in chamber and permanent staff were appointed. This achieved the goal we set back in the early 1980s to establish the Christchurch unit as a major hyperbaric facility for New Zealand.

In January 2004, the compressors and high pressure air receivers were moved into a purpose-built plant room, as part of the Christchurch Women's Hospital redevelopment. We now have a double compartment 6-person recompression chamber for treatment with hyperbaric oxygen, with permanent medical, nursing and technical staff.

In November 2017 the chamber underwent a major upgrade. The panel was upgraded to a fully electronic system and the chamber interior was refurbished.

Diving accidents in New Zealand

Read here for more information on diving accidents.

For medical assistance contact the Diver Emergency Service: 0800 4DES 111 e.g. 0800 4337 111

Referrals are accepted from New Zealand south of Taupo.


We accept patient referrals from any medical practitioner or nurse in independent practice (such as rural nurse practitioners).

For information about how to refer patients from the community, see HealthPathways.

For in-patient referrals, see HealthPathways

For referrers outside areas covered by HealthPathways, contact details area as follows:


Page last updated: 21 September 2021

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