North Shore LIJ surgeon leaves job

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The chairman of neurosurgery at the North Shore−Long Island Jewish Health System is stepping down from his post following news reports that he refused to perform a brain operation on a woman who had been anesthetized for surgery because she was not his patient.

Dr. Thomas Milhorat, 73, had been suspended for two weeks beginning April 17 after the scheduled April 10 procedure did not occur, North Shore−LIJ spokesman Terry Lynam said.

Lynam said he could not discuss the details of the matter because it was a personnel issue.

Dr. Paolo Bolognese, who was also suspended, was supposed to perform the operation but could not be reached by the hospital and Milhorat refused to operate because the patient was not his, according to New York Newsday. The paper said the hospital could not find another surgeon to perform the surgery.

Milhorat, who is retiring, will still be employed by the hospital in a “research capacity,” while Bolognese’s clinical practice privileges are on hold as the hospital investigates the incident, Lynam said.

He said the patient eventually underwent a successful surgery, but he did not say when it took place. He declined to identify the patient, citing privacy concerns.

The patient’s head was prepped for surgery when she had to be woken up from anesthesia and told the operation never happened, Newsday said.

Attorney Lee Goldsmith says he is representing 11 patients in cases against Milhorat and Bolognese, including a $60 million claim filed on behalf of a 7−year−old Idaho girl.

The suit on behalf of Katie Bryant claims the surgeons used the youngster as a “human research subject” by unnecessarily performing “experimental” surgery for tethered cord syndrome— a condition where the spinal cord is improperly attached to the spine.

In the suit, attorney Lee Goldsmith said Katie did not have tethered cord syndrome and that her spinal condition worsened after the surgery.

In a statement, North Shore−LIJ Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lawrence G. Smith said Milhorat’s retirement “has been in the works for many months” because of his age.

Milhorat and Bolognese head the health system’s Chiari Institute, which specializes in a condition in which excess brain tissue pushes against the cerebellum and spinal cord known as Chiari malformation.

The Great Neck, L.I.−based institute opened in 2001.

Milhorat’s replacement could be named later this month, Smith said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 173.

Posted 6:35 pm, October 10, 2011
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