Controversial neurosurgeon’s license suspended again

Earlier this month, the N.C. Medical Board suspended the medical license of Henderson County neurosurgeon Michael J. Rosner for three months. The suspension began Feb. 1 and ends May 1, when Rosner will be issued a temporary license good through Sept. 30.

The medical board found that Rosner had diagnosed a patient with a spinal-cord compression and that his diagnosis was “below acceptable and prevailing standards of medical practice in North Carolina, chiefly because this diagnosis was not supported by radiographic evidence.” Rosner operated on the patient’s spinal cord following his diagnosis, and in a hearing before the board, his experts testified that his diagnosis and decision to operate was reasonable.

For the past decade, Rosner’s work has gone in a direction pursued by only a handful of neurosurgeons in the U.S.: cutting away bits of the spine and the back of the skull to treat neurological conditions found in 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 a number of others have filed civil lawsuits against him, alleging that he’s performed unnecessary surgeries.

The neurosurgeon has been battling the state board for years. The board summarily suspended Rosner’s license in 2002, a rare action by the board. Rosner wasn’t allowed to reapply for his license for six months, and when he did, his application was denied. He appealed, and following a June 2004 hearing, the medical board reinstated his license, with certain conditions.

In a 2008 Mountain Xpress story, Rosner explained that he has not operated to treat fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue, but to correct what he calls a “neurological deficit” in his patients. Rosner says his patients 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,” also known as a “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 some neurological difficulties — such as tremors, sleep apnea, headaches and poor coordination —in some sufferers.

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 also had spinal cord abnormalities.

Rosner declined to comment on the latest suspension, but Tonya Stanford, Rosner’s office manager, told Xpress that his staff backs him. “We know he’s done nothing wrong. We totally support him,” she said.

In the 2008 interview, Xpress asked Rosner to respond to the medical board’s past assertions that he’s “engaged in unprofessional conduct, including, but not limited to, departure from, or the failure to conform to, the standards of acceptable and prevailing medical practice, or the ethics of the medical profession” as defined by state law.

Rosner’s responsed:  “In medieval times, we burned people at the stake for different ideas. Now we simply strip them of their professional reputation.”

— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor



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6 thoughts on “Controversial neurosurgeon’s license suspended again

  1. RodGillis

    All I have to say is that Dr. Rosner is the most through and professional doctor my wife and I found during the 2 years we searched to find out what was wrong with her; and the surgery he preformed on her in 7/08 gave me my wife back, and Staci a future.

    Rosner’s Medical Board problems are the result of 3 circumstances:

    1. A small number of unhappy patients, who did not get the unrealistic results they expected, after years of damage from untreated conditions (including Chiari and other serious conditions)and/or years of ineffective treatment in most cases by many many other doctors and clinics, before seeking diagnosis/treatment from Dr. Rosner.
    2. Some of these unhappy patients, deciding to sue Dr. Rosner, for not getting the results they expected in their own mind, even after being told and signing pre-surgical forms acknowledging that Dr. Rosner doss not guarantee the results of, also things could get worse from, these types of very serious brain and/or spinal surguries. What Doctor would? My wife and I knew that the brain and spinial surgery she had in 7/08 might not work; and there was a risk it could make her condition worse. Dr. Rosner told us that face to face, and the pre-surgical forms Staci signed said the same thing.

    It’s no coincidence that many of these unhappy patients signed up with an Asheville attorney, who was actively seeking cases to file against Dr. Rosner, and most significantly against Parke Ridge Hospital, where Dr. Rosner practices, as the largest insurance policy is the hospital’s.

    3. Dr. Rosner in 2000. did an ABC 20/20 episode on his treatment of Chiari, and also that many of his patients had been diagnosed by other doctors with other ailments, when in fact they had Chiari. The fact that Dr. Rosner went on TV and discussed and questioned/showed problems with the medical community and their inaccuracies/variability in diagnosis and their processes of treatment. The 20/20 episode, and the way that the 20/20 editors presented the interview with Dr. Rosner, angered many doctors, in particular the nonsurgical medical community in Alabama and North Carolina, where he practiced. It is no coinsidence, that shortly after this 20/20 appearance, the North Carolina medical board started to focus/target Dr. Rosner.

    Anyone reading this post, you should know that the both of us knew all of this information regarding Dr. Rosner, prior to even seeing Dr. Rosner for the 1st time in 02/08. After our visits with Dr. Rosner, and getting a 2nd opinion from a renowned neurosurgeon in Pittsburgh who also is a Chiari expert, Staci and I both, without any hesitation, fully agreed that Dr. Rosner was the one to do her surgery in 7/08. There was no doubt in either of our minds that he knew what was wrong with her; but also he was the best to do the surgery, given all of his years of experience, and without guarantees.

    In this last North Carolina medical board complaint matter, at Dr. Rosner’s hearing on this complaint, his attorney was not allowed to present any evidence of normal standards in other states or nationally; nor put on any witness testimony (he had several Neurosurgeons from other states who regularly perform this type of surgery and know how Dr. Rosner practices medicine were slated to testify for him) from witness Doctor’s from anywhere else nor licensed in other places, except North Carolina.

    This is what today is called due-process by the North Carolina medical board; and maybe it was 230+ yrs. ago in other places, but not now and not for a long time.

  2. hedzap

    I am a 48 year old physician who searched for twenty years for the answers to my own disabling illness. What I have found among my colleagues has been astounding: arrogance, mis-information, and downright erosion of intellectual integrity seem to prevail on the issues that Dr. Rosner has so courageously fought to treat.

    At what point did it become acceptable for the patient to suffer because of a battle of egos within the medical community? You are not only persecuting this man personally; you are persecuting every patient that this visionary doctor has worked so tirelessly to help. I am ashamed to have ever called myself your colleague.

    The evidence, when examined objectively in its entirety, over-whelmingly supports Dr. Rosner’s work. The members of the North Carolina Medical Board also took an oath: “…First do no harm…” Remember?

    Deborah Sharp Russell, MD
    Baton Rouge, LA

  3. Please look at the ratings of the top 65 chiari neurosurgeons in the U.S. and note who has the top rating with the highest NUMBER of ratings. Click on Dr. Rosner’s last name and it will take you to his entry on

    The page is

    The data speaks for itself.

  4. tin whiskers

    X-rays are primarily used for diagnostic radiography and crystallography. As a result, the term X-ray is metonymically used to refer to a radiographic image produced using this method, in addition to the method itself. X-rays are a form of ionizing radiation and as such can be dangerous.

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