- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The movement that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon experienced on both sides of his body after a massive stroke last week bodes well in terms of his survival, but he could live with brain damage, said physicians who treat stroke victims.

“The prime minister’s life is still in danger,” Dr. Jose Cohen, one of Mr. Sharon’s neurosurgeons at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem, told the Associated Press. “Every day, although we are getting further out of danger, we are still in danger.”

Doctors are weaning Mr. Sharon, 77, from sedatives that have kept him in an induced coma to reduce his blood pressure.

Dr. Cohen said the cerebral hemorrhage Mr. Sharon experienced Jan. 4 certainly would have caused cognitive damage.

“There is nothing you can do about that,” he said.

Brain damage is experienced in “virtually 100 percent” of patients who suffer the kind of hemorrhagic stroke that felled Mr. Sharon, said Dr. Richard Zorowitz, a specialist in stroke recovery at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia.

After Mr. Sharon is weaned from the sedatives, his doctors in Jerusalem can assess brain damage and function.

“I personally would not expect him to make a full recovery. … He’ll have to learn to walk and take care of himself all over again. … It’s highly unlikely he could resume his official duties,” Dr. Zorowitz said.

Survival beyond a month typically is less than 50 percent for victims of the type of massive brain hemorrhage that Mr. Sharon suffered.

“It is looking better in terms of his survival, but there are still uncertainties in terms of his quality of life and level of function,” said Dr. Zorowitz, also chairman of the National Stroke Association’s recovery and rehabilitation advisory committee.

On Monday, the prime minister moved his right hand and leg slightly in response to pain stimulation. On Tuesday, movement on his right side increased, and he moved his left hand. Movement on his left side further improved yesterday.

“Injuries to the right side of the brain can cause significant deficits,” although not usually as catastrophic as those to the left side, said Dr. Chelsea Kidwell, medical director of the Stroke Center at the Washington Hospital Center.

Dr. Kidwell and Dr. Zorowitz said these brain injuries could result in weakness or numbness on the body’s left side, loss of vision in the left eye and paralysis.

Dr. Kidwell said it will have to be determined whether Mr. Sharon will need a feeding tube because some stroke patients have difficulty swallowing.

Dr. Zorowitz cautioned that the prime minister could be left with “problems of memory, judgment and attention.”

He said this could mean Mr. Sharon is no longer articulate and could have cognitive deficits in the “subject matter and content” of his speech.

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