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Adrian Harrison - Respiratory Physician

Private Service, Respiratory



Dr Adrian Harrison has been a respiratory physician at Auckland DHB since 1979 and in private since 1989.

He welcomes referrals and enquiries for patients with conditions across the respiratory spectrum and has a particular interest in the areas of troublesome cough, bronchiectasis, and mycobacterial lung disease. He gives priority to the rapid investigation of possible lung cancer. He is interested in smoking cessation and general motivation. He also provides a rapid, expert service for Immigration Medicals: here, prompt letters and good communication are especially important.

Areas of Interest:

  • Cough (Adrian is a former member of the Lung Foundation of Australia Cough Guidelines Committee)

There are many causes of a persistent, troublesome cough, and Adrian is an expert in diagnosing and treating them. The medical literature shows that some coughs cannot be fixed - but they are the exception.

Adrian's recommendation: if you have a troublesome cough despite seeing another expert, don't give up. Stopping you coughing is my mission!

  • Bronchiectasis
  • Sinus problems
  • Asthma
  • COPD
  • Tuberculosis & non-HIV, Non-Tuberculous Mycobacterial (NTM) lung disease
  • Endoscopy - Bronchoscopy
  • Investigation of Lung Cancer
  • Interstitial Lung Diseases
  • IMMIGRATION MEDICALS for lung conditions and abnormal chest X-rays.

Life Coaching:

You may be interested to know that Adrian is also a life coach, a published author and speaker in the area of personal development, including Doctors' Wellbeing.

For more details, go to his website, www.professionalsbestlife.com


The Lower Respiratory Tract has several components:
  • Centres in the brain that enable us to breathe automatically.
  • The chest wall and diaphragm, which make up a bellows system. It is the regular expansion and contraction of this mechanical system that enables us to breathe.
  • The lungs.
The lungs also have several components:
  • Firstly, there are the breathing tubes that bring in fresh air (with oxygen) and take away the 'stale' air, from which some oxygen has been removed and carbon dioxide from the tissues has been added. The different levels of breathing tubes include the trachea (windpipe), the bronchi (large airways) and bronchioles (small airways). Thus, the structure of the breathing tubes is like the trunk and branches of a tree - a tree which is upside down, compared with a real tree.
  • Secondly, there are the air sacs (or alveoli), that bud off the tiniest breathing tubes. The alveoli form a sponge-like tissue that makes up the main bulk of the lungs. There are very tiny blood vessels in the alveolar walls. The total surface area of the walls of the alveoli is enormous, and it is through this delicate tissue that oxygen and carbon dioxide enter and leave the bloodstream, respectively. 

As we breathe in, the alveoli expand and fresh air rushes down the breathing tubes. Oxygen passes through the walls of the air sacs into blood vessels, where it attaches to haemoglobin in red blood cells. Oxygen is thus transported around the body in the blood, and diffuses out to supply the various bodily tissues. The opposite happens to carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide formed in body tissues becomes dissolved in the blood and travels to the lungs. Here, carbon dioxide diffuses out of the bloodstream, passing through the walls of the air sacs into the alveolar spaces. From there it is exhaled through the breathing tubes as we breathe out.

In summary, the heart pumps blood through the lungs. Here oxygen enters the bloodstream and carbon dioxide from the tissues leaves the bloodstream. The lungs and the heart work as a team, managing both the gases involved in cellular metabolism, keeping the cells of the body alive. 
The Pleura and the Pleural Space
The lungs fit exactly inside the thoracic cage, or chest. The lungs are surrounded by a 'skin' called the pleura. The inside of the chest wall also has a layer of pleura. The pleural space between these two layers is a potential space, containing a small negative pressure and a small amount of fluid which enables the lung surface to slide smoothly over the inside of the chest wall as we breathe in and out.
Finally, let's not forget the upper respiratory tract:
The Upper Respiratory Tract
This comprises the nose, mouth, sinuses, throat and vocal cords.
Symptoms can originate at almost any level of the respiratory tract.
  • Cough - can be the result of problems in the upper respiratory tract, the airways, and the lung tissue. Additionally, the stomach and oesophagus can be implicated (gastro-oesophageal reflux). Because the chest does the work of coughing, most people - including many doctors - assume the cough is originating from their bronchi or lung tissue. It's important to not only look for causes there, but in other locations too.
  • Sputum (also known as mucus or phlegm). Mucus is formed by special cells in the lining of the breathing tubes and the lining of the sinuses and the nose. Larger than normal amounts of mucus are usually the result of inflammation or infection in these tissues. Most antibiotics are useless if the mucus is clear in colour (there is one exception, though).
  • Throat clearing - repetitive throat clearing is usually the result of sinus disease or reflux. It can also become a habit.
  • Breathlessness - can originate from one or more sites. The signal causing breathlessness may come from the brain, the airways, lung tissue, the pleural space and the chest wall. The heart is another place where breathlessness can originate. Interestingly, lack of oxygen does not cause breathlessness. A Disordered Breathing Pattern (for example, hyperventilation) is also a common cause of breathlessness - or the feeling of not getting a full breath or enough oxygen.
  • Chest pain - a practical anatomical point is that the pleura and breathing tubes have pain-sensitive nerve fibres, but the lungs do not.  Chest pain can come from the chest wall (with its muscles, ligaments, ribs and nerves), the trachea and bronchi, the pleura, the heart and the oesophagus (gullet) - but not from the lung tissue.
  • Chest tightness or heaviness - is common in people with asthma and a disordered breathing pattern. 
  • Coughing blood - blood can come from the upper respiratory tract (including the mouth), the breathing tubes and from lung tissue. Infection, inflammation, tumour or trauma can cause bleeding from any of these areas. 


Referral Expectations

Please be sure to bring to your appointment: 
  1. Letters or reports from your doctor or hospital.
  2. Reports about previous X-rays, CT (computer tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans can be really helpful. If you can provide the name of the Radiology centre where the X-ray or scan was done, we may be able to view it.
  3. All medicines you are currently taking, including herbal and natural remedies.
  4. Before you come to the appointment, think about chest problems you have had in the past, as I'll be asking you about them. 


Mon – Fri8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Common Conditions / Procedures / Treatments

  • Asthma

    Asthma is the result of inflammation and narrowing of the breathing tubes (bronchi).… More

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

    COPD is one of the terms used to describe the condition in which the main problems are:… More

  • Lung Cancer

    Cancers are composed of abnormal malignant cells - cells which divide and grow in an uncontrolled fashion.… More

  • Lung Function Tests

    Lung function tests measure how a person's lung function compares to normal for someone of the same gender, age and size.… More

  • Computer Tomography (CT) Scan

    With CT scans you can see much more detail than with a normal X-ray. During a CT scan, X-ray beams are sent from different angles through part of the body.… More

  • MRI

    MRI is an abbreviation for Magnetic Resonance Imaging.
    This method is excellent for imaging bones, muscles and soft tissues, but is not useful for imaging the lungs.… More

  • Fine Needle Aspirate

    When a lump or tissue thickening are seen on the CT scan, a fine needle aspirate (FNA) - also known as a needle biopsy - can be done to get a sample of the tissue. In the case of a lump inside the chest, a fine needle is inserted through… More

  • Bronchoscopy

    During this examination a thin fibreoptic tube is passed into the breathing tubes.… More

  • What is a pleural effusion?
    The pleural space was explained earlier, near the end of the section entitled, 'The Respiratory System'.… More

  • Adult Bronchiectasis

    Bronchiectasis means "damaged breathing tubes". Sometimes this condition can be widespread, involving most or all parts of both lungs, and sometimes it is localised to one area.… More


Café 98 is close to our rooms and to MercyAscot Hospital itself. There is a good selection of food (which is always fresh), tea, coffee and soft drinks. The prices are very reasonable and the café looks out onto a very pleasant garden setting.

Travel Directions

How to find Medical Specialists Group

Dr Adrian Harrison is part of a large medical specialist practice, called Medical Specialists Group. The rooms are located on the first floor of the Mercy Specialist Centre.
If you drive in Gate 3 and go through the car park building, you will see the Mercy Specialist Centre as you come out on the far side of the car park. There are two entrances:

  • If you go in entrance D on the right, you will need to go up a set of stairs to reach the first floor. When you reach the top of the stairs, turn right, and our doorway is 2 metres down the passageway.
  • If you go in the ground-level entrance E on the left, you will first see a set of stairs ahead of you. But if you go through the doorway to the right of the stairs, there is a lift. As you come out of that stairway or out of the lift on the first floor, turn right, and then right again, and follow the passage to the far end of the building.

There are several signs showing lists of specialists. If you are in doubt, please ask one of the staff at the centre, or phone our receptionist (09 623 1170).

If you need a wheelchair to get from your car to the rooms, please call our receptionist and we can make sure one is available. There is a disabled car park outside the left-hand entrance – the entrance near the lift.

Public Transport

The Auckland Transport Journey Planner will help you to plan your journey.


Patient Parking is provided. Please use the Gate 3 entrance. 


The nearest pharmacy is located within Mercy Hospital. Click here for details

Contact Details

1st Floor, Mercy Specialist Centre
100 Mountain Road

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Street Address

1st Floor, Mercy Specialist Centre
100 Mountain Road

This page was last updated at 11:33AM on August 2, 2021. This information is reviewed and edited by Adrian Harrison - Respiratory Physician.