Overview of Neurosurgery in Singapore

Neurosurgery had a humble beginning more than 50 years ago. In 1956, Sir Douglas Miller, President of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and Director of Neurosurgical Unit, St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney, NSW, Australia visited the University Surgical Unit at Singapore General Hospital (SGH). He, together with Prof Yeo Ghim Seng, started Neurosurgery as a new speciality in Singapore. Dr Tseng Yuen Lin became the first fully trained neurosurgeon in Singapore with the FRACS diploma after completing his training in 1960 under Sir Douglas Miller in Australia. Sadly, Dr Tseng passed away in 1962 due to perforated appendicitis.

Dr Tham Cheok Fai took over the mantle as Singapore's only neurosurgeon in 1965 after completing his training in London and worked in the Department of Surgery at Thomson Road Hospital.

 

In 1970, a Committee on Medical Specialisation recommended the development of Neurosurgery and Neurology as 1 of the 5 tertiary specialties. In 1973, the 1st Department of Neurosurgery and Neurology in Singapore was set up at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH). Between 1974 and 1976, under the auspices of the Foundation for international Education in Neurosurgical Surgery, 12 neurosurgeons from USA and 1 from Canada served in Singapore in rotation for 1-3 months each, providing consultancy service and training young neurosurgeons. Neurosurgical trainees were sent to Australia for completion of their neurosurgical training under the FRACS (Neurosurgery) programme. With further assistance of American and Canadian neurosurgeons, including Dr Charles Drake, Dr Jules Hardy and Dr Ralph B Cloward, the neurosurgical speciality flourished and TTSH became the only internationally accredited Neurosurgery service and training centre in Singapore. Neurosurgical trainees were also sent to Canada, USA and UK for advanced training, which brought a greater breadth and depth to Singapore Neurosurgery.

 

As the speciality developed, neurosurgeons from TTSH branched out to set up private neurosurgical services. With the development of medical services and growth of the population in Singapore, Neurosurgery departments were developed in other public hospitals. In 1989, a Division of Neurosurgery was established within the Department of Surgery at the National University Hospital (NUH). In 1990, neurosurgeons from TTSH transferred to SGH to establish a new Department of Neurosurgery.

 

In 1998, National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) was formed to oversee the provision of Neuroscience services in Singapore. In 2002, the two Departments at SGH and TTSH were integrated into a single entity to provide Neurosurgery services to several public hospitals in Singapore. The merged and enlarged Department provided the much-needed critical mass to embark on sub-specialisation for treatment of brain and spinal tumours, spinal surgery, paediatric neurosurgery, cerebrovascular surgery, epilepsy and movement disorder surgery, radiosurgery as well as neurotrauma. Advanced trainees are required to carry out research as part of their training. NNI is poised to forge forward to improve our service standard, to enhance our postgraduate training, to take on high quality neuroscience research and to establish Singapore as a Regional reference centre for neurological diseases.

The World's First Integrated Neuroscience Centre was established at SGH in 2007. It was equipped with the state-of-the-art technology, real-time high quality intraoperative Magnetic Resonance Imaging (iMRI), Computed Tomography (iCT) scanning and advanced image-guidance neuronavigation system. Neurosurgeons were able to intraoperatively monitor progress and perform more complex surgeries with less time required and improved patient outcome.

Neurosurgery services were established at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) in 2010, at the Ng Teng Fong Hospital (NTFGH) in 2015, and at the Sengkang Hospital (SKH) in 2018. Neurosurgery services are expected to commence at the new Woodlands Health Campus in 2022.

 

At the present, in the public healthcare sector, NNI provides Neurosurgery services at the tertiary hospitals of SGH and TTSH and the regional general hospitals at CGH, KTPH and SKH. Paediatric neurosurgery is provided at KKH and NUH. NUHS provides Neurosurgery services at NUH and NTFGH. A vibrant private sector also exists at Farrer Park Hospital, Gleneagles Hospital, Mt Elizabeth Orchard, Mt Elizabeth Novena, Parkway East and Raffles Hospital. 

From just one small unit at TTSH in 1973, Neurosurgery is now provided at multiple public and private hospitals in Singapore.  Neurosurgeons have also expanded their armamentarium beyond cranial operations, to perform complex spine, peripheral nerve, movement disorder, endovascular, pain, and stereotactic radiotherapy procedures.  It has been an exciting time for Neurosurgery, and it will continue to be in the years to come.

We cordially invite all neurosurgical trainees and practising neurosurgeons to join the Chapter, and support our efforts to advocate for our patients, and to further develop, advance and expand Neurosurgery in Singapore.

 

 

Board Members 2019 - 2021
 
Rank Name
Chairman A/P Ng Wai Hoe
Vice-Chairman Dr Ng Yew Poh Vincent
Honorary Secretary Dr Hwang Ying Khai, Peter
Members Dr Low David
  A/P Seow Wan Tew

 

Please click here to view Past Board Members.

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