Getting patients up and moving again

Dr Victor Seah, an orthopaedic surgeon at Raffles Hospital who sub-specialises in orthopaedic trauma, finds bones, joints and soft tissues fascinating because they work in tandem to create all the wonderful things that a person can do.

Q I specialise in orthopaedic trauma because...

A It is one of the most challenging and rewarding fields in orthopaedic surgery. Injuries sustained from traffic or worksite accidents and sports are always unexpected and, often, devastating. Trauma patients typically stay under my care for years, as I watch them move from the hospital bed back home, from crutches to independent mobility and, ultimately, back to their family, sports, recreation and their way of life.

Q Bones, joints and soft tissues are fascinating because...

A They work in tandem to create all the wonderful things that a person can do. After all, life is motion.

Q One little-known fact about recovering from orthopaedic trauma is...

A It is better to move about and stay as active as possible. Early movement helps maintain muscle strength and prevents stiffness, which help shorten the rehabilitation period.

Q What I do is like being...

A A mechanic, fixing a broken car so it can race again.

Q A typical day for me starts...

A At 6.30am. I go for a jog, and drive my children to school before going to work.

I always see my patients in the ward first and plan their treatment before starting my clinic at 9.30am. I usually see 15 to 20 patients a day. Sometimes, I have surgery in the day or the evening after I am done with my clinic.

Then it is usually back home for dinner with my family, where I catch up with them on their day before we go to bed. On weekends, we usually do sports together, such as cycling or swimming.

Q I come across all types of cases...

A From young patients who have suffered multiple injuries in accidents to elderly patients with osteoporotic fractures. I remember a young cyclist who sustained multiple injuries after an accident with a lorry. After many operations and a long rehabilitation period, she recovered and went on to complete her studies, as well as a few marathons along the way.

Then there was a frail 104-year- old woman who had a hip fracture. Many people, including her family, thought she would not survive surgery, or would remain bed- bound after that. The feisty woman proved everyone wrong. She was moving around with the aid of a walking frame soon after the operation.

Q I love patients who are...

A Motivated and take charge of their health and recovery. These patients play an active role in their rehabilitation and are often able to return to walking independently. Less motivated patients tend to end up in wheelchairs.

Q Patients who get my goat are...

A None. Some of my patients have been through a devastating and life-changing event and are in pain, feeling scared and frustrated. Therefore, I can understand even if they behave badly.

Q Things that put a smile on my face are...

A Seeing patients who overcame their injuries to return to their way of life.

Q It breaks my heart when...

A Patients succumb to their injuries or suffer complications despite our best efforts.

Q I wouldn't trade places for the world because...

A It is a privilege to be able to do what I do.

Q My best tip...

A Drive safe, do not speed and give way to cyclists or motorcyclists. A moment of rashness or carelessness can take away years from another person's life as he recovers from a bad accident. Some never recover fully.

Bio Box


Age: 39

Occupation: Specialist in orthopaedic surgery and consultant at Raffles Orthopaedic Centre in Raffles Hospital

A fracture typically brings to mind the spectre of broken bones. But according to Dr Seah, soft tissues such as skin and muscle are even more important in recovery because they provide blood to the bone that is trying to heal.

The orthopaedic trauma specialist said the force that causes the fracture is transmitted to the bone through soft tissue.

Even if the skin does not break, the trauma causes bleeding in the soft tissue, perhaps to the point that the tissue dies.

Dr Seah orders tests to identify a patient's fracture pattern, so that he can repair the injury and guide him on his rehabilitation journey.

In 2010, he underwent training in orthopaedic trauma at the Charite University of Medicine Hospital in Berlin, Germany. He went on to pursue a fellowship in foot and ankle surgery at the Carl-Gustav-Carus Institute in Germany.

Dr Seah is married to a 39-year-old chemical engineer. They have two sons, aged seven and three, and a six-year-old daughter.

This article was first published on Sept 22, 2015. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.