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Southern DHB Respiratory Services

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    The Southern DHB (SDHB) Respiratory Specialist Service is a district wide service primarily delivered from Dunedin and Southland hospitals. Acute and inpatient respiratory services are provided by the respiratory teams at Dunedin Hospital, whereas patients with acute respiratory conditions admitted elsewhere within the Southern region are managed by General Medicine services.

    The service provides a broad range of diagnostic and interventional procedures. Diagnostic testing is undertaken by the respiratory and sleep laboratories at Dunedin and Southland hospitals. The department also manages a domiciliary oxygen service under specifications set by the Ministry of Health.

    Outpatient clinics are delivered at Dunedin, Southland, Lakes/Queenstown and Dunstan hospitals.

    What is Respiratory Medicine?
    See for information on respiratory conditions and treatments.


    The Respiratory Department
    Respiratory services provided by the Dunedin Hospital department consist of outpatient clinics, a day stay unit and inpatient (ward) care. At Southland Hospital Respiratory Services support the acute inpatient service and run outpatient clinics. Outlying hospitals including Oamaru, Balclutha, Dunstan, Gore and Lakes/Queenstown are supported by the service, including the regional oxygen service and sleep service.

    The department is staffed by respiratory physicians (doctors who specialise in treating conditions of the lungs), specially trained nurses, physiologists, physiotherapists, and registrars (doctors training to be specialists). There are Pulmonary Rehabilitation programmes in Dunedin and Invercargill and other similar programmes and initiatives elsewhere in the region are supported.


    • Dr Colin Wong

      Respiratory Physician
    • Dr Benedict Brockway

      Respiratory Physician - Clinical Leader
    • Dr Jack Dummer

      Respiratory Physician
    • Dr Mohammad Mohd Hafetz

      General & Respiratory Physician


    Asthma symptoms include coughing, wheezing, a tight feeling in the chest and trouble breathing. Asthma occurs when the main breathing tubes of your lungs are over-sensitive and react to things that don’t affect other people.   As a result of this they become swollen and narrow.If your asthma is not getting better with standard treatment (preventer and reliever inhalers) or if you are having more asthma attacks than you or your doctor are comfortable with, you may be referred to a specialist.In most cases you’ll be asked to give a complete medical history and will also be examined by the doctor. Sometimes other conditions can appear like asthma or complicate asthma, so you may be asked to have some tests to help in the diagnosis.  Tests looking for severity and complicating features of asthma include:chest X-ray, spirometry and CT chest.  For more details see below.You may, however, not need any of these tests. TreatmentThis includes taking medicines as well as changing some lifestyle factors.  A peak flow meter can be used to keep a watch on your asthma and help with plans to prevent attacks.  Stopping smoking is very important as is learning to recognise what brings an asthma attack on.Asthma is treated with inhaled medicines.  There are two types:1. a preventer medicine is taken every day.  It soothes the irritated breathing tubes and prevents worsening of asthma, “asthma attacks”.2. a reliever treats the asthma attacks. It relaxes the tightened muscles around the breathing tubes. For more information on asthma see 

    Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

    This term is used to describe lung disease where the breathing tubes become blocked and the surrounding tissue and air sacs inside the lungs become damaged. COPD includes conditions such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic asthma.  COPD is a long term and sometimes fatal disease that can be managed and slowed down. Smoking is the main cause of emphysema and chronic bronchitis.


    Chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of the main breathing tubes (bronchi) in the lungs, which results in the production of excess mucous (phlegm) and a reduction in the amount of airflow in and out of the lungs. In the early stages of chronic bronchitis, a cough usually occurs in the morning. As the disease progresses, coughing persists throughout the day.  There is often associated shortness of breath and an increased rate of chest infections.


    Emphysema is the gradual destruction of the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. The alveoli are unable to completely relax.  As they become larger they are not as good at transporting oxygen to the blood.  Emphysema cannot be cured, but can be managed through medication and lifestyle changes.


    You may have some of the following tests before or after your clinic appointment: chest X-ray, spirometry, lung function tests, CT chest.  The specialist will decide if you need any of these tests, depending on your symptoms and examination findings.


    There are ways to manage COPD.  The first and most important is to stop smoking if this applies to you.  There are exercises and dietary changes that can help maintain and improve fitness.  Medications include inhalers, although they are not used for everyone. If you have COPD it is a good idea to have the flu vaccination every year.

    Lung Cancer

    This is when abnormal malignant cells divide and grow in an uncontrolled fashion in the lung tissue. The effect of this is to destroy normal lung tissue and block off the breathing tubes. There are several types of lung cancer.  The most common cause is cigarette smoke; however exposure to asbestos, marijuana smoke and a number of other chemicals can also increase your risk of developing cancer.   Common signs and symptoms ·        a cough that gets worse with time ·        coughing up blood ·        chest pain ·        loss of appetite and weight ·        tiredness ·        repeated doses of, or not improving, bronchitis or pneumonia.   Diagnosis To diagnose lung cancer your doctor will look at your medical and smoking history. You will also have a physical examination. This is usually followed by a number of tests.  The aim of the tests is to confirm the diagnosis and find out what type of cancer it is which usually involves obtaining some cells to look at under the microscope. Test you are likely to have include: ·        chest X-ray. This is the first test that may raise the question of a lung cancer.  It is usually followed by other tests to confirm the diagnosis ·        CT scans with or without fine needle aspirate (see below) ·        bronchoscopy  (see below).   Treatment Once lung cancer is diagnosed, a process known as staging determines the extent of the disease. Knowing the type and stage of cancer means the doctor can plan your treatment. Different treatment options include: ·        surgery.  The type of surgery depends on the size and type of cancer ·        radiotherapy is a form of high energy radiation (X-ray) that kills cancer cells ·        chemotherapy is the use of drugs aimed at killing cancer cells. The aim of treatment is to keep the person as well as possible even if the cancer cannot be cured. If you have a lung cancer there will be ongoing follow up with specialists and nurses throughout treatment and afterwards. For more information about lung cancer see

    Lung Function Tests

    You may be advised to take lung function tests to find out how much air moves in and out as you breathe. The two most common tools used to measure lung function are spirometers and peak flow meters.  Lung function tests are usually done before and after taking a medication known as a bronchodilator (asthma reliever medication) to open your airways.


    Spirometry is a test which measures the speed at which your lungs can be filled and emptied of air.  It can be used to diagnose problems of breathing and monitor the usefulness of treatment. In order to do spirometry, you take a deep breath in and blow out as hard as you can into a hollow tube attached to a spirometer machine for 6 seconds.  You will be asked to do the test 3 times. The whole process takes 10 – 15 minutes depending on whether or not you are given some inhaled medicine and asked to do it again to monitor if there is an improvement.

    Peak Flow Meter

    This is a small hand-held tube that can measure what is happening in your breathing tubes.  You can have one at home and measure your peak flow by blowing into it as hard and fast as possible.  You will be shown how to measure it and compare it with what you can blow when you are well as part of your asthma management plan if you think you are having an asthma attack.

    Blood Gas Tests

    This is similar to a blood test but instead of a needle going into a vein it is inserted briefly into a small artery in your wrist.  A small amount of blood is taken and sent to the laboratory for information about the oxygenation of your blood and other gases. Blood gas measurements may also be used if you have known respiratory, metabolic or kidney disease, especially if you have severe difficulty breathing. Many conditions can cause a blood gas imbalance and while the blood gas tests do not identify the exact cause of the imbalance they will point to either a respiratory or metabolic problem.

    Chest X-ray

    A chest X-ray is normally undertaken to check the chest wall, lungs and heart. A chest X-ray is often the first test used to determine the reason for shortness of breath, persistent cough, chest pain or injury. Although you may think of an X-ray as a picture of bones, a trained observer can also see air spaces, like the lungs (which look black) and fluid (which looks white).Women should always advise their doctor if they are or think they may be pregnant before an X-ray is undertaken. When having a chest X-ray you are exposed to a very small amount of radiation. What to expect?You will have all metal objects removed from your body.  You will be asked to remain still in a specific position and hold your breath on command.  There are staff present, but they will not necessarily remain in the room, but will speak with you via an intercom system and will be viewing the procedure constantly through a windowed control room.

    Computer Tomography (CT) Scan

    With CT you can see much more detail than with a normal X-ray. Using an X-ray beam, which is sent through the body from different angles, creates a CT image and by using a complicated mathematical process a computer is able to produce an image.  This allows cross-sectional images of the body without cutting it open.  The CT is used to view all body structures but especially soft tissue such as body organs (heart, lungs, liver etc.).   What to expect? You will have all metal objects removed from your body.  You will lie down on a narrow padded moveable table that will be slid into the scanner, through a circular opening. You will feel nothing while the scan is in progress, but some people can feel slightly claustrophobic or closed in, whilst inside the scanner.  You will be asked to remain still and hold your breath on command.  There are staff present, but they will not necessarily remain in the room, but will speak with you via an intercom system and will be viewing the procedure constantly through a windowed control room, from where they will run the scanner. Some procedures will require Contrast medium.  Contrast medium is a substance that makes the image of the CT clearer. Contrast medium can be given by mouth, or by injection into the bloodstream. The scan time will vary depending on the type of examination required, but as a rule it will take around 30 minutes.  

    Fine Needle Aspirate

    Depending on what is seen on the CT scan an additional test can be done where a fine needle is inserted into your chest into the cancer and some cells sucked up into the needle.  This is done while taking pictures with the CT scanner to guide the doctor as to where to place the needle.  Local anesthetic is put into your skin and muscles so that the test is not overly painful.  A specialist doctor does this.


    During this test a thin fibreoptic tube is inserted into your breathing tubes, through the nose, to view the tubes and take a biopsy (remove cells or tissue) to see if there are cancer cells present. It is usually undertaken under local anesthetic. You may be given medicine to make you sleepy and relaxed.  A specialist doctor does this procedure in an operating theatre environment.