A controversial Fletcher-based neurosurgeon won't be able to operate on patients' spinal cords and skulls after Sept. 30, according to a recent decision by the N.C. Medical Board.
The decision is the latest episode in an ongoing battle between the board and Dr. Michael J. Rosner that dates back to 2002, when the board took the rare step of summarily suspending his license. The board found that Rosner had performed eight unnecessary surgeries, describing them as "deviating from the accepted and prevailing standard of care."
Rosner has been fighting the board's decisions ever since, both in appeals before the board in Raleigh and in Wake County Superior Court. The board had issued Rosner a series of temporary licenses, including one in February that's set to expire Sept. 30.
Without further explanation, the board's letter notified Rosner that it would not give him another temporary license to practice, said Jim Wilson, Rosner's Raleigh-based attorney. Wilson said Rosner has complied with every order of the medical board and has the backing of several respected neurosurgeons who have appeared before the board on his behalf or provided written testimony. As to what recourse Rosner had, Wilson said, "We're exploring our options."
A board spokeswoman declined to elaborate on Rosner's case, stating that its position was explained in the series of public documents posted on its Web site. In the most recent case to be adjudicated before the board, the board ruled that Rosner's management of a patient constituted "unprofessional conduct, including, but not limited to, departure from, or the failure to conform to, the standards of acceptable and prevailing medical practice."
For the past decade Rosner has been performing a medical procedure undertaken by only a handful of the nation's neurosurgeons: cutting away bits of the spine and the back of the skull to treat neurological conditions found among patients often diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia. Rosner, an expert in trauma neurosurgery before his current work, practices out of a small office in Fletcher next to Park Ridge Hospital, where he has performed his surgeries.
Rosner's work has made him a lightning rod of controversy. Many patients, who sometimes travel long distances to be treated by him, say that he's dramatically improved their lives. But others have filed civil lawsuits against him, alleging that he's performed unnecessary surgeries.
Rosner and other proponents of the surgery believe that many of the patients they see suffer from one of two conditions: a skull that's too small for the brain or a compressed spinal column. Sometimes they have both.
In medical terminology, "hypoplastic posterior fossa," which is also known as "Chiari I malformation," essentially means that the back of the skull and upper spinal column are too small to contain the lower part of the brain and the upper spinal cord. This condition has long been known to cause neurological difficulties — including tremors, sleep apnea, headaches and poor coordination — in some sufferers.
In "Brain Man" (July 16, 2008, Xpress) Rosner explained that he has operated to correct "neurological deficits" in his patients, rather than to treat fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue.
He also explained that he began to look at patient X-rays and MRIs in a new light after noticing that people with head injuries often have spinal-cord abnormalities as well.
For that 2008 article, Xpress asked Rosner about the medical board's past assertions that he's engaged in unprofessional conduct, and Rosner responded: "In medieval times, we burned people at the stake for different ideas. Now we simply strip them of their professional reputation."