More patients aged 65 and above seek help for spine problems at CGH

A demonstration of the O Arm surgical imaging system, which provides real-time, three dimensional view of the patient's spine, at Changi General Hospital. It enables the hospital's surgeons to perform minimally-invasive spine surgery.
A demonstration of the O Arm surgical imaging system, which provides real-time, three dimensional view of the patient's spine, at Changi General Hospital. It enables the hospital's surgeons to perform minimally-invasive spine surgery. ST PHOTO: FELICIA CHOO

SINGAPORE - More elderly patients aged 65 and above are seeking treatment for age-related spine conditions at Changi General Hospital (CGH), and they have been able to recover faster, as well as save time and costs due to an integrated spine service launched in July 2015.

Around 250 age-related spine surgery were performed at the hospital from 2016 to this year (2017), up from 90 in 2014.

Certain components of the spine deteriorate with age, resulting in conditions such as fractures and bulging discs.

The service enables patients to consult an orthopaedic doctor and a neurosurgeon specialising in spine conditions during the same visit. Previously, patients who needed a neurosurgeon's expertise had to be referred to a different hospital, which could take around four to six weeks for non-urgent cases.

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Surgery for urgent cases, such as spinal tumours and extensive trauma to the spine caused by accidents, can also be performed within one to two days at CGH using minimally invasive surgical techniques. Patients who underwent this option could be discharged in two to three days, compared to the one week that open surgery required.

In addition, the service is also driven by the need to train doctors in increasingly complex treatment methods for spine conditions, due to advancements in technology.

"Spine surgery is evolving; previously it used to be done by a general orthopaedic surgeon or a general neurosurgeon," said Dr Dinesh Shree Kumar, director of spine surgery at the department of orthopaedic surgery at CGH. "But now, because the treatment options are more complex - there is a requirement for doctors to be trained specifically in dealing with the problems of the spine."

Currently, CGH has one orthopaedic doctor and one neurosurgeon specialising in spine conditions. It aims to train three to four more doctors in the next few years to be able to handle issues related to bone structure - usually under the orthopaedic doctor's care - as well as the nervous system, which is usually handled by the neurosurgeon.