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Archive for August, 2010

Medical Association of Atlanta’s New Member Picnic

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

August 28, 2010 at Chastain Park.  For more information, visit Medical Association of Atlanta.


ADA Monthly Dinner Meeting

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

August 17, 2010 at City Club of Buckhead.  For more information, visit Atlanta Dermatological Association.


American Sociological Association’s Annual Meeting

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

August 14 -17, 2010 at the Hilton Atlanta and Atlanta Marriott Marquis.  For more information, visit the American Sociological Association.


U.S. Files Suit Against Dr. Najam Azmat and the Satilla Regional Medical Center

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

The United States has filed a complaint under the False Claims Act against Dr. Najam Azmat and the Satilla Regional Medical Center in Waycross, Ga., the Justice Department.  The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, alleges that the defendants submitted false or fraudulent claims to federal health care programs, such as Medicare.  Specifically, the United States contends that certain operative procedures performed by Dr. Azmat at Satilla, and hospital services provided by Satilla in connection with those procedures, were not reasonable and necessary, were incompatible with standards of acceptable medical practice, and were of no medical value.  The United States further alleges that the defendants’ misconduct endangered the lives of federal health care program beneficiaries.

The government’s complaint alleges that in the Spring of 2005, Satilla recruited Dr. Azmat, a general surgeon by training, to relocate to Waycross and join the hospital’s medical staff.  Shortly after Dr. Azmat came aboard, Satilla allowed him to begin performing endovascular procedures – highly specialized operative procedures that require formal training – in Satilla’s Heart Center cath lab.  Satilla did so despite the fact that Dr. Azmat lacked training to perform such procedures, was not qualified or competent to perform such procedures, had never performed such procedures before at any of the hospitals where he had been on staff, and did not even have privileges at Satilla to perform such procedures.

The complaint further alleges that it was obvious to the cath lab nursing staff that Dr. Azmat was not qualified or competent to perform endovascular procedures.  The nurses repeatedly voiced their concerns to Satilla’s management, but the hospital took no formal action for at least five months, during which patients were seriously injured and one patient died from hemorrhagic shock following an endovascular procedure during which Dr. Azmat perforated her renal artery.  The complaint also states that not only did Satilla’s management ignore its nurses’ concerns for several months, but it also performed no formal oversight of Dr. Azmat, categorically excluding all of his endovascular procedures from Satilla’s peer review process.

“When health care providers cut corners by allowing unqualified doctors to perform complicated medical procedures, patients suffer,” said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice.  “Here, we allege individuals were endangered because of these defendants.  The seriousness of this case illustrates why we remain committed to protecting patient safety and the integrity of our federal health care programs by aggressively enforcing our health care fraud laws.”

“The filing of this complaint is but one example of the willingness of the Department of Justice to take action to protect the health and safety of the American people.  The United States Attorney’s Office will take the necessary legal actions to comply with our vigorous enforcement responsibilities under the False Claims Act,” said Edward Tarver, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia

This lawsuit was originally filed by Lana Rogers, a nurse who formerly worked in Satilla’s Heart Center.  Under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, a private citizen can file an action on behalf of the United States and receive a portion of any recovery.  In April of this year, the United States intervened in the lawsuit, and today filed its own complaint.  Under the False Claims Act, the government may recover up to three times the amount of its losses, plus civil penalties based on the number of false claims filed

The suit is entitled United States ex rel. Lana Rogers v. Najam Azmat, M.D. and  Satilla Health Services Inc., dba Satilla Regional Medical Center.

The United States’ intervention is part of the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud.  One of the most powerful tools in that effort is the False Claims Act, which the Justice Department has used to recover approximately $3 billion since January 2009 in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.  The Justice Department’s total recoveries in False Claims Act cases since January 2009 have topped $4 billion


Dr. Stephen Cohen Implements New Colorectal Surgery Treatment

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

With more than 140,000 cases a year, the pervasiveness of colorectal cancer continues to impact the public and medical community. On a local level, Dr. Stephen Cohen of Southern Regional Health System implementing a new colorectal surgical procedure with NiTi Surgical Solutions’ ColonRing.

When performing colorectal surgery, a portion of the colon is removed, and the two ends are joined back together by a colorectal surgeon. This procedure is called an anastomosis. Traditionally, surgeons have been performing this closure procedure with a circular stapler used from inside the colon. The staples puncture and crush the colon’s internal structure, remain in the body permanently and can lead to a number of complications.

Southern Regional is now using the ColonRing with BioDynami Anastomosis. This device is placed by a surgeon, through either open or laparoscopic surgery, to seamlessly reconnect the two parts of the colon following surgery. The ColonRing, which utilizes a shape memory Nitinol ring, applies gentle pressure to the sections of the colon until the surrounding tissue completely and naturally grows back together. This usually takes about seven to 10 days. The device works by mechanically squeezing blood vessels together, helping to create an immediate hemostasis, or, in other words, stopping blood flow and speeding up the healing process. After healing is complete, the ColonRing is expelled from the body, leaving nothing behind in the colon. Most patients do not even notice the ring being expelled.

To date, Southern Regional has performed more than 210 surgeries with the ColonRing. According to Southern Regional, the ColonRing offers important potential benefits compared to other methods of repairing the colon. Unlike stapling, which can narrow the colon, this device can preserve the widest possible opening, so that the colon continues to work as it should. And, it leaves the body after healing is complete, greatly cutting down on the potential post-surgery complications from foreign body reaction.

Stephen M. Cohen, M.D., FACS, FASCRS, is board certified in colon and rectal surgery. He has been practicing colorectal surgery with Southern Regional Health System for 15 years.


Stuart Knechtle, M.D. Named Children’s Chief of Liver Transplant Surgery

Friday, August 6th, 2010

Stuart Knechtle, M.D. recently joined Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta as Chief of Pediatric Liver Transplant Surgery, Surgical Director of the Liver Transplant Program and the Carlos and Marguerite Mason Chair for Liver Transplant Surgery.

Stuart Knechtle, M.D.Dr. Knechtle will also remain Chief of the Division of Transplantation and Professor of Surgery at Emory University School of Medicine as well as Clinical Director at the Emory Transplant Center and Director of Liver Transplantation at the Emory Clinic.

“Dr. Knechtle’s leading-edge surgical, research and teaching skills have earned him acclaim and respect throughout the medical community,” said Amy Hauser, Service Line Administrator for Transplant Services at Children’s. “His combination of talents will allow Children’s and Emory to stay at the forefront of transplant research, specifically in transplant immunology. We are thrilled to officially welcome him to the Children’s Transplant family.”

A leader in the field of liver and kidney transplantation, Dr. Knechtle has designed and led a variety of clinical trials in organ transplantation. He operated a National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded research lab for 17 years and continues research focused on the immunologic mechanisms of transplant rejection and immunologic tolerance. Prior to joining Emory and Children’s, Dr. Knechtle led a team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that performed the state’s first liver transplant from a living donor, as well as the state’s first combined liver and pancreas transplant.

A member of several professional and scientific organizations, including the American Surgical Association and the American Society of Transplantation, Dr. Knechtle has presented at more than 60 international conferences and meetings. An accomplished author, Dr. Knechtle has also contributed to more than 300 research articles, publications and abstracts in the areas of transplantation and transplant immunology.

Dr. Knechtle earned his medical degree from Cornell University and completed both his residency and transplant immunology research fellowship at Duke University Medical Center. After finishing his transplantation fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Hospital Department of Surgery, Dr. Knechtle remained on staff for nearly two decades and most recently served as a Professor of Surgery and Director of Liver Transplantation.


Thorasic Surgeon, Dr. Saeid Khansarinia, Uses Minimally Invasive Technique

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

In June, thoracic surgeon Saeid Khansarinia, M.D., implanted a diaphragm pacing system using a minimally invasive thoracic surgery technique, as opposed to an abdominal procedure due to the patient’s specific needs. The modified surgical method will make it possible for Lynn Wheeler of Fayetteville, Ga., to breathe more naturally using an implanted diaphragm pacer instead of a ventilator.

Diaphragm pacing first gained national attention in 2003, when Raymond Onders, M.D., of University Hospitals Case Medical Center implanted a diaphragm pacing system in actor Christopher Reeve via an abdominal surgery. The device eventually enabled Reeve to breathe without the use of a ventilator.

Dr. Khansarinia is one of the latest additions to Piedmont Heart Institute Physicians as part of its expanding cardiothoracic surgery services. He is one of only 18 surgeons performing this procedure through the abdomen and the only surgeon who has performed this operation through the chest.  Specializing in thoracic surgery, Dr. Khansarinia is a graduate of St. Louis University and completed his residency at the University of Florida Health Science Center. He is board certified in both general and thoracic surgery.

Functioning in a way similar to heart pacemakers, small electrodes are placed on the diaphragm where they stimulate the muscle to contract, pulling in air through the lungs. The patient carries a small external device that allows them more mobility than the larger machines and breathing tube necessary with a ventilator.

Wheeler, now 63 years old, was left paralyzed after a car accident five years ago and has required the assistance of a breathing tube. However, abdominal surgery was not an option for her. Unfortunately, due to multiple previous surgeries on her abdomen and the nature of her injuries, access to the diaphragm through the chest was the only option for this kind of procedure.

Determined to find a way to help his patient achieve a better quality of life, Dr. Khansarinia and his team in collaboration with Dr. Onders, developed a method to implant a diaphragm pacer through the chest.

As Wheeler’s diaphragm learns to contract and relax again over the next few months, she will be able to rest at home while the diaphragm pacing device works along with the ventilator. Eventually patients with diaphragm pacers are weaned off their ventilators as the diaphragm strengthens and breathing occurs more normally.

“Mrs. Wheeler is doing well. Currently she is off the ventilator and breathing with the pacer over four hours per day,” Dr. Khansarinia said. “She is very happy with her outcome and within a few months to a year, we hope she will be able to breathe without the need of a ventilator.”

For patients with quadriplegia, a diaphragm pacing system can mean a greatly improved quality of life. Communication becomes easier as speech is no longer hindered with the operation of a breathing tube. Sense of taste and smell will also improve for many patients. The risk of infection and pneumonia is significantly decreased for patients who are not dependent on a ventilator.

“What we’ve found is that the sooner we can approach patients with quadriplegia and implant the device, the quicker they recover to a more normal breathing state,” Dr. Khansarinia said. “With older patients and with patients that have been on a ventilator for a longer period of time, it will take a little longer for their diaphragm to relearn its original function with the assistance of a diaphragm pacing system.”

“This procedure has a lasting effect patients’ quality of life,” Dr. Khansirania said. “Their sense of smell and taste often return as air is no longer being forced into the lungs and can now flow freely through the nose and mouth. Most importantly, it gives them an improved sense of self and freedom as their speech pattern returns and they are able to communicate more naturally.”


Stephen James, DO, Becomes the First Georgia Surgeon to Use iO-Flex System for Minimally-invasive Back Surgery

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Dr. Stephen James, who specializes in complex reconstructive spine surgery and practices at the Cumming Resurgens office, recently became the first Georgia Surgeon to  Use iO-Flex System for Minimally-invasive Back Surgery

The iO-Flex™ System is an advancement in surgical technology for central, lateral recess and foraminal lumbar stenosis. This unique technology uses thin, flexible instruments through an open exposure or a minimally invasive tube to provide precision lumbar decompression from the “inside out” (“iO”). This “over the wire” approach allows surgeons to address targeted impinging tissue with a non-implant, direct decompression, while preserving facet joint integrity. Up to four nerve roots may be decompressed through a single-point access using this system.

“Up until now, to relieve nerves that have bone and other diseased tissue pressing down on them, we have had to remove a lot of healthy tissue in and around the facet joints in the spine. Clinical studies have shown that preserving the facet joints helps maintain spinal stability. Using instruments from Baxano’s innovative iO-Flex System, we are able to access and remove soft tissue and bone directly compressing on the nerve while preserving the facet joints. I offer decompression with the iO-Flex System to my patients with lumbar spinal stenosis because I believe that it most directly addresses the source of the symptoms that they feel and I have been impressed with patient outcomes achieved thus far,” states James.


Breast Surgeon, Laura Rivers, MD Joins North Fulton Hospital

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Cancer care at North Fulton Hospital recently got a boost with the addition of breast surgeon Laura Rivers, MD.  Dr. Rivers is an experienced surgeon for minimally invasive breast biopsy, breast surgery, breast disease management, and oncoplasty. She provides breast surgery consultations and follow-up care following breast surgery.

Dr. Rivers received her Doctor of Medicine at the Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, Louisiana. She completed her Residency at Tulane University School of Medicine Department of Surgery served as Chief Resident at the Weil Medical College of Cornell University Department of Surgery and as Chief Resident at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.  From 2006-2007, she had a Fellowship at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, Department of Surgery, and Breast Oncology.
Dr. Rivers is a member of the American College of Surgeons, Association of Women Surgeons, American Society of Breast Disease, and the Tulane Surgical Society.



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