Since young, Assoc Prof Guo Chang Ming has enjoyed activities that involve working with his hands. It thus came as no surprise that he found surgery – and spinal surgery in particular – to be his calling in life.

“Spinal surgery is very risky and can have severe consequences if not done correctly. Accuracy, precision and repetitiveness are of critical importance,” he said. “Despite its risks, successful spinal surgery will alleviate pain for patients, and sometimes, allow them to regain their mobility and quality of life. For this reason, I find my work to be very rewarding.”

Over the past two decades, Assoc Prof Guo has been working on making spinal surgery better and safer. He is a passionate advocate of the minimally invasive lateral approach to spinal surgery, where small incisions are made at the side of the body, and computer navigation and robotic technology are used to perform precise surgical cuts.

This approach is safer than the traditional surgical method of opening up and exposing a large area of the body. It minimises blood loss and post-operative analgesic use, allowing patients to recover faster and be discharged earlier.

“Many patients are surprised to find that they can get up and walk the day after their surgery. Some can even go home the very next day,” said Assoc Prof Guo, who takes the time to explain and reassure his patients on the surgical procedure. Besides clinical work, he also teaches other surgeons the techniques for minimally invasive lateral surgery.

Assoc Prof Guo, who is also involved in clinical research, often draws research inspiration from unexpected sources. Once, he worked with a chemist, PhD student and an infectious disease specialist to create injectable bone cement after observing the shell of a baby crab, which starts off soft and molten but grows into a hard and sturdy shell as an adult.

Drawing on the same concept, the bone cement they created can be injected into the human body in a molten state, and hardens when exposed to body temperature. This innovation has been patented and is being evaluated for further improvements.

Assoc Prof Guo Chang Ming

Senior Consultant

Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

Singapore General Hospital

Recipient of the Singapore Health Quality Service Awards (SHQSA) 2020 Superstar Award - Clinician Category