Life after complex spine surgery

Tony, 58, a Boilermaker/Welder for 40 years and most recently a Trainer and Assessor in Mining, has always worked in physically demanding jobs from a young age. Enjoying an active life with a large family of now 4 adult children and 7 grandchildren, Tony’s spinal diagnosis was frightening for someone his age. 

Originally Tony underwent 4 hip replacement surgeries after an infection and had 2 disc bulges removed years ago. He was left with a foot drop on the left hand side from a damaged spine nerve which caused him to fall one day, resulting in yet another injury to his lower lumbar discs. After that Tony couldn’t walk as far as the length of his driveway as his legs were so unstable.

Tony was referred to NeuroSpine Institute and eventually it was decided that further surgery was the best way forward. That surgery involved operations through his tummy and his back to place spacers between bones, realign the spine and fix it with screws and rods to keep it in place. The squashed nerves were freed up and the whole procedure took approximately 10 hours.

Before surgery, the NeuroSpine Institute surgical team encouraged Tony to seek other opinions due to the complexity and risks of the surgery to ensure he felt confident in his choice to proceed with the operation after weighing up the risks involved. Although anxious about what life would be like after surgery, as each month passed, Tony felt stronger and more mobile.  

Tony spent a week in hospital and after the operation, the NeuroSpine Institute consultant surgeon, physicians, physiotherapists and rehabilitation physician worked collaboratively to maximise the care Tony received to ensure the best possible outcome and recovery.

12 months on, Tony has resumed nearly all of his usual activities. “Sure there are things that are hard to do, simple things like putting shoes and socks on, but I have modified everything I do to continue as normal. I still work and live on a 1 acre block full of veggie beds and fruit trees, can walk as far as I want and hold and play with my grandkids, although I can’t catch the older ones!”

Tony found the team at NeuroSpine Institute ”Very professional, making the patient’s care a priority. This is a major surgery and you want to have the best people looking after you, but after that it’s up to you to do the work to get yourself mobile again and keep moving, do all your physiotherapy and adapt this to keep doing the things you enjoy doing.“

Pain free after Lumbar Decompression

Warren, 57, found his ability to walk any distance without discomfort challenging. He had a common condition called lumbar stenosis, which can arise from bony spurs that develop as we age and from the main spinal ligament which can also thicken over time. This thickening then puts pressure on the spinal nerves and sometimes the spinal cord itself which can make activities like standing periods of more than a few minutes and walking very difficult due to buttock and leg pain.

One of the NeuroSpine Institute surgeons performed a surgical procedure on Warren called Minimally Invasive Lumbar Decompression which involved the removal of some bone and the thickened ligament, enabling more space for the spinal nerves.

Warren’s condition had deteriorated to the point where after walking eighty steps, discomfort started and then progressively increased as walking continued. Warren commented “It usually started as pins and needles in my foot and increased to the feeling of my leg going to sleep and needing to be dragged.” Warren figured out that he “could ‘reset’ my body to normal by stopping walking and sitting down for 15-30 seconds.”

NeuroSpine Institute diagnosed Warren in early 2018 and with the pain increasing over the following 12 months, Warren then had a pain injection in 2019 which was effective. Warren’s symptoms unfortunately worsened over time and the Lumbar Decompression operation was performed in May 2020. “The diagnosis provided insight into what my body was doing and why, plus an understanding of how to manage the discomfort. The treatment and rehabilitation period has changed my life significantly.” Warren now has no discomfort and walks over 10,000 steps every day, having added walking to many regular activities. 

Life now for Warren is unbelievably different with an extraordinary change to his basic mobility. He has had no recurrence or limitations since the surgery and shared, “the surprise outcome is how well I sleep now and how I am no longer tired every day. The discomfort was obviously an issue during my sleep as well.”

For others going through a similar experience, Warren reminds “Sometimes managing to live with the discomfort, by making sacrifices to what you would normally do, makes you forget what it was like to live without the discomfort. Living without the discomfort after surgery, gives you an opportunity to do things you thought you could never do again.” Recently Warren managed a continuous walk for three hours, achieving 19,000 steps which adds to his remarkable tally of having now walked almost 600kms in less than 3 months.

Warren found his experience with NeuroSpine Institute very professional, encouraging and caring. His support person additionally provided tremendous encouragement through the process and beyond and was a key component of his recovery to being pain free.

NeuroSpine Institute surgeon commented “I am delighted that Warren has had a positive operative result which has dramatically changed the outcome of his future.” Minimally Invasive Decompression surgery is an increasingly common operation for the treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis and is performed by the highly experienced surgeons at NeuroSpine Institute.  “Prior to my operation I walked with discomfort and pain when with others to avoid the embarrassment of having to take regular ‘rests’, but now life is very different now – I lead the walking activities”

*Picture for illustrative purposes only

NEW Rehabilitation Physician, Dr Jason Tan joins NeuroSpine Institute

Dr Joon Qing Jason Tan is a Rehabilitation Physician, with particular interests in neurorehabilitation, spinal cord injury, post-stroke management, aged-care and falls assessment. Jason commences in private practice at NeuroSpine Institute in September 2020.

Jason spent three years in basic physician training and later enrolled as an advanced trainee in rehabilitation medicine of the Royal College of Physicians (RACP). He had worked in various hospitals throughout his training, including the States Rehabilitation Service at Fiona Stanley Hospital. After completing his specialist exams in 2018, Jason moved to Geraldton Regional Hospital, Western Australia where he continued his work in rural medicine. His experiences include acute medicine, post-operative care, general adult rehabilitation, gerontology and aboriginal health.

NeuroSpine Institute welcomes Jason to the team and is available to see patients immediately.

NEW Spine Surgeon, Dr Greg Cunningham joins NeuroSpine Institute

Spine Surgeon, Dr Greg Cunningham has recently returned to Perth full time after completing orthopaedic and neurosurgery spinal fellowships in the United Kingdom. Greg commences in private practice at NeuroSpine Institute in June 2020.

Greg has a special interest in surgery of the cervical spine and the treatment of athletes spinal conditions to return them to peak performance.

Having grown up in Western Australia and studied medicine at the University of Western Australia, Greg understands the importance of mobility and comfort to make the most of an active lifestyle in WA. He is the director of spinal surgery at Fiona Stanley Hospital Orthopaedic Department and also has an ongoing involvement in many research projects that aim to improve the treatment of spinal conditions.

NeuroSpine Institute welcomes Greg to the team and is available to see patients immediately.


Improving patient outcomes through research and education

NeuroSpine Institute in 2019 established a charity whose principal purposes and objectives are to promote improvement in the neurosurgical and orthopaedic spine care in Australia and internationally, by establishing and developing a centre of excellence in neurosurgical and orthopaedic spine care research and in its application.

For further information email

NeuroSpine Institute’s response to COVID-19

NeuroSpine Institute doctors continue to service patients and referrers by offering outpatient consultations in addition to video/telephone consultations for patients that  are unable to attend the rooms in person. Our rehabilitation physiotherapy service has also resumed face to face consultations. Elective surgery for all categories has now resumed. Please email if you have any questions.

NeuroSpine Institute is continuing to monitor the information provided by the Australian Health Department and the WA Health Department on the respiratory illness outbreak caused by coronavirus (COVID-19). We have policies in place designed to ensure that the safety of our patients and staff is our first priority.

Patients will be asked a set of questions related to this matter at the time of booking or when they present to one of our clinics. We are following the current Health Department recommendations.

If you have any symptoms of a viral illness including fever, cough, runny nose or sore throat
If you are suspected of having coronavirus (COVID-19) or are quarantined, you should not attend our clinics. You should speak to your doctor or attend a public hospital emergency department.

If you fall into either of these categories please speak with us so we can discuss your scheduled appointment and make arrangements to reschedule this.

NeuroSpine Institute Team

NEW Consultant Physician Joins NeuroSpine Institute

Consultant Physician, Dr Yee Hein has recently returned to Perth full time. From February 2020, Yee commenced in private practice at the NeuroSpine Institute, consulting in Murdoch and Wembley.

Yee’s special interests include perioperative medicine, rheumatology and geriatric medicine. She is also fluent in Myanmar (Burmese).

From the days when Yee received her primary medical degree from the Institute of Medicine, Yangon, Myanmar in 2007, she has been trying to seize every possible opportunity to enrich and broaden her medical knowledge and clinical experience. With great enthusiasm and tremendous interest, she undertook various rotations in Western Australia, Victoria and Queensland to become a competent physician. She obtained Membership of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom (MRCP) in 2018 and was awarded the fellowship of Royal Australasian College of Physicians (FRACP) in 2019. She is passionately committed to the highest quality care for all patients requiring medical care. Yee is also committed to the development of junior doctors by creating and delivering learning and development programmes.

NeuroSpine Institute welcomes Yee to the team and is available to receive referrals, offering a bulk bill service at present.


Experienced Consultant Physician Joins NeuroSpine Institute

To read more about our newest team member and the services she will provide please click here.

Spine Surgeon Performs Australian First

Spine Surgeon Performs Australian First – click here for media release