- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2006

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Ariel Sharon showed “slight improvement” in his recovery from a massive stroke by moving his left hand yesterday, but doctors said they still cannot assess his abilities to think and reason as they gradually reduce the anesthesia keeping him in a coma.

Doctors also said Mr. Sharon’s life was not in immediate danger.

“I think compared with recent days … there are significant changes in the prime minister’s condition, but we still have a long way to go, and we have to be patient,” said Dr. Yoram Weiss, one of Mr. Sharon’s anesthesiologists.

Doctors said the 77-year-old leader’s blood pressure increased when his sons spoke to him yesterday.

Mr. Sharon is recovering from a cerebral hemorrhage and widespread bleeding in the right side of his brain that he suffered last Wednesday.

As doctors began decreasing Mr. Sharon’s dose of sedatives to remove him from an induced coma Monday, he moved his right hand and right leg slightly in response to pain stimulation.

Yesterday, the movement on Mr. Sharon’s right side increased, and he also moved his left hand, said Dr. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, the director of Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.

“These are neurological changes that show slight improvement in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s brain functioning,” he said.

Movement on Mr. Sharon’s left side could be significant because that part of the body is controlled by the right side of the brain.

Dr. Weiss said doctors would have to wait several days, until the sedatives have worn off entirely, before assessing the leader’s brain function.

An Israeli newspaper, meanwhile, reported that Mr. Sharon was suffering from a brain disease that, in combination with the blood thinners he started taking after an initial stroke Dec. 18, could have increased his risk for another stroke.

The Ha’aretz daily said doctors had not discovered the disease, called cerebral amyloid angiopathy, when they treated Mr. Sharon for the first stroke, but Dr. Mor-Yosef said doctors were aware of it.

Before the stroke, Mr. Sharon had been expected to handily win re-election in March 28 parliamentary balloting.

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