The doctor is making his final rounds.

Even though NBC recently renewed ER for three more seasons, the long-running medical drama will go on without one of County General's last original MDs, Dr. John Carter. Noah Wyle, who has played Carter since the show debuted 11 years ago, told last year that he was "not going to be a series regular [this] year" so he could spend more time with his wife, Tracy, and their 2-year-old son, Owen.

He's kept mum since then. But now it seems Wyle will follow in the footsteps of George Clooney, Anthony Edwards, Julianna Margulies and Eriq LaSalle and leave the show for good following the May 19 season finale. He is, however, expected to make return appearances four times a year for the next two seasons.

"I know this was a hard decision for him to make. He really enjoys the crew and cast," says Madchen Amick, who guest-starred this season as Carter's latest love interest, social worker Wendall Meade. "But he's making a life decision. He's making it for his family."

Producers won't reveal how the good doctor will permanently check out, but they offered a tease: "Look for Thandie Newton to reenter Carter's life [as Makemba Likasu], and for him to make an emotional trip to Paris."

Whatever happens, Amick says Carter will go out the same way he came — as a nice guy. He will "try to make sure everything is OK between us," Wendell's portrayer adds.

But after a year that saw the wealthy doctor deal with the death of his firstborn and a battle with a major pharmaceutical company, will his exit be OK with ER loyalists? "The impact of [Carter's] departure will be minimal," predicts media analyst Stacey Lynn Koerner of Initiative Media. "[Almost] everybody else from the original cast is already gone, and others have taken their places and earned their own fan base." — Additional reporting by Michael Ausiello