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Getting to Know Dr Tan Ter Chyan

"I always give patients a choice of options as only they can ultimately decide what’s best for themselves. This requires me to explain to them their condition thoroughly and this might take time. This allows us then to build a relationship. Medicine, after all, is a relationship based on trust and understanding between the patient and doctor."
Dr Tan Ter Chyan is a hand surgeon practising at Parkway East Hospital. He has special interests in peripheral nerve surgery and minimally invasive surgery of the hand and upper limb.
  • Specialty:

    • Hand Surgery
  • Qualifications

    • Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, National University of Ireland
    • Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, UK
    • Master of Medicine (Orthopaedic Surgery), National University of Singapore
  • Languages Spoken

    • English

Getting to Know Dr Tan Ter Chyan

Getting to Know Dr Tan Ter Chyan

Q: What motivated you to become a doctor, and how did you decide to be a hand surgeon?

It has always been my interest to study medicine because I come from a medical family and most of my classmates were working towards medical school as well. For me, it was a choice between entering the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) or a career in medicine. Circumstances provided and here I am.

I started off in general surgery and then orthopaedics. I discovered that I liked the smaller aspects of the musculoskeletal system and the soft tissue reconstructive aspects of orthopaedic surgery when I did a posting in the Department of Hand and Reconstructive Microsurgery at the National University Hospital. I decided that a career in hand surgery was for me.

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Q: What kind of conditions do you treat, or specialise in treating?

I treat all conditions that fall under hand surgery, namely degenerative conditions (ie. carpal tunnel, trigger fingers and osteoarthritis), limb infections, hand and wrist fractures and congenital hand conditions (birth deformities). As hand surgeons are also micro-reconstructive surgeons, we do limb replant surgery which allows amputated digits and limbs to be re-attached. We also perform free-tissue transfers to allow salvage and reconstructive surgery to be performed on limbs that have been severely injured.

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I also use peripheral nerve surgery to repair and reconstruct limbs that have been paralysed due to trauma, congenital defects or other diseases like tumours. This enables a limb that was previously immobile and paralysed to attain a degree of function. Conditions that might benefit include brachial plexus injuries in both adults and children, cerebral palsy, stroke, peripheral nerve trauma and compressive conditions, eg. cubital tunnel syndrome and thoracic outlet syndrome.

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Q: Do you perform any kind of special treatments? If so, please share a little here.

I am fellowship-trained in minimally invasive surgery of the upper limb, using techniques of wrist/small joint arthroscopy for sports injuries and degenerative conditions. Arthroscopy allows for faster recovery as the incisions are far smaller and less soft tissue is damaged during the surgery. This allows for easier rehabilitation and significantly reduced pain compared to conventional repairs of the wrist and small joints, which used to involve bigger incisions.

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With advances in the use and techniques of smaller arthroscopes and 4K definition monitors and cameras, we can now do the surgery through ‘keyhole’ incisions.

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Q: What do you enjoy most about your job as a hand surgeon?

What I most enjoy is seeing previously active patients regain similar levels of function after surgery and therapy. It is especially gratifying to see patients with serious injuries like mangled or paralysed limbs return to work and activities.

It is always a joy to see patients send pictures of themselves performing sports they like after recovery. However, it is also a little worrisome that some of them play sports to an even higher level after! I wish them injury-free sports careers!

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Q: Could you share with us your philosophy in treating patients?

I always give patients a choice of options as only they can ultimately decide what’s best for themselves. This requires me to explain to them their condition thoroughly and this might take time. This allows us then to build a relationship. Medicine, after all, is a relationship based on trust and understanding between the patient and doctor.

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Q: Briefly describe a particularly difficult case that you successfully treated using your expertise.

My patient had a degloving injury (where a large area of skin is completely torn off the underlying tissue) of the leg from the knee down to the ankle after a forklift rolled over the leg. This required 3 flaps (soft tissue transfers) with multiple surgeries over 6 months. The leg was salvaged and she has since returned to work. I still get Chinese New Year cards from her annually, as well as greetings on social media. She is now like an old friend!

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