MANILA, Philippines - Pampanga Rep. and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is scheduled to undergo surgery as her damaged cervical spine, if left untreated, may lead to paralysis, according to the latest medical bulletin issued by St. Luke's Medical Center on Tuesday.
Arroyo was admitted to St. Luke's on Monday afternoon because of recurring neck pain, which was caused by a damaged cervical spine with multilevel cervical spondylosis or a wearing away of the bones of the neck.
The condition compressed Arroyo's nerves in the cervical spine which are responsible for the movement of her arms and respiratory muscles.
Lead attending physician Juliet Cervantes said the surgery may take place in the next few days and may last for 3 to 5 hours.
"The surgery itself is risky because it involves a very sensitive area in the spinal cord. The nerves that are being compressed right now are the nerves that supply the upper extremities or the arms and hands. And some of the nerves are the ones responsible for the movement of the respiratory muscles," she told reporters.
"There is a progression of her weakness of her upper extremities that is why we will not wait until she falls into paralysis, otherwise it may be irreversible the next time around."
Cervantes said the former President has a "very high" threshold to pain, enabling her to go to work despite doctors' advice to limit her physical activities.
"As of now, kung hindi mo i-eexamine hindi obvious kasi she can still move. However, on physical examination, napi-pick up namin na medyo nagkakaroon ng further progression ng weakness ng kanyang kamay," she said.
She suspects that the pain attack was induced by Arroyo's "continuing to work countless hours despite her stresses" and the "similar acute pain attack which also hospitalized her at St. Luke's last month."
It is also usually age-related, she said.
"We try to be conservative...considering na nag-rerespond pa siya sa rehab at sa medical management, sa pain relievers...but this time, kailangan na namin magdesisyon," she said.
Arroyo was brought to St. Luke's last month after suffering from severe neck pain. She took pain medications and was seen sporting a cervical collar during Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago's renewal of wedding vows with husband Jun Santiago, a former interior undersecretary.