JERUSALEM – Doctors for Ariel Sharon, in releasing selected medical information this week, told reporters the Israeli prime minister, who suffered a mild stroke last week, is “in good health.” Sharon will also undergo a minor heart procedure next month.
Stroke experts, however, said that some of the information the doctors presented is “contradictory.” They say not enough is currently known about Sharon’s medical condition to independently determine whether the prime minister is fit to govern.
At a press conference held at Sharon’s direction, chief doctors for the Israeli leader said that for a “very brief time” Sharon was unable to make decisions after being rushed to the hospital last Sunday, and had difficulty speaking, but that by the next day he was “fine” and able to “fully serve as prime minister.”
Doctors said they discovered this week that Sharon has a microscopic hole in his heart that requires a catheterization procedure. The procedure takes about 40 minutes and requires partial sedation.
The doctors said the heart condition, which Sharon has had since birth, caused a clog that prompted last week’s stroke. They said Sharon is currently being injected twice daily with blood thinners.
Doctors insisted that Sharon’s stroke did not cause any permanent damage and that he is physically fit to continue serving as prime minister.
“There is no injury to the brain,” attending physician Tamir Ben-Hur, chief of neurology at Jerusalem’s Hadassah hospital, said. “The prime minister is in exactly the same state now as he was the day before he was hospitalized.”
Doctors did not release past medical files or the results of CAT scans or imaging tests from last week that would show whether Sharon suffered permanent damage. Reporters at the press conference were barred from taking photographs or videotaping documents.
Meanwhile, some leading stroke experts in the U.S. said they are skeptical of the announcements regarding Sharon’s ability to return to his hectic schedule.
Jonathan Leiff, a geriatric neuropsychiatrist and co-director of geriatrics specialty services at Saint Elizabeth Medical Center in Boston, said, “If Sharon was only suffering from symptoms such as loss of speech for such a brief time, I would not term that a stroke. A stroke is much more serious and presents symptoms for a longer period.
“What they are describing is more of an angiosciatic attack, which would be from a temporarily blocked blood vessel.
“But they are saying he did have a stroke, which implies something more serious. If it is indeed more serious, this would mean there is more to the story. More information that is not public,” said Lieff, who previously served as president of the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatry.
Richard Zorowitz, associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Pennsylvania, said that based on the information currently made public it is not possible to conclude anything concrete about Sharon’s condition.
The information presented by Sharon’s doctors – that there was a period in which the Israeli leader was unable to make decisions – was in conflictwith statements from senior aides immediately following Sharon’s stroke, who said Sharon was fully conscious during his entire hospitalization and was able to make decisions as head of state throughout his hospital stay.
According to a report on Israel’s state-run Channel 10, Sharon’s doctors today failed to disclose the prime minister is suffering from vision problems and is nearly blind in his left eye.
The doctors did note that the 77-year-old Sharon weighs 254 pounds, extremely overweight for his age and height.
Members of Sharon’s treatment team at Hadassah hospital, speaking confidentially to the Israeli media last week, reportedly said when Sharon departed the hospital he was still not at full capacity.
The Israeli daily Maariv quoted a team member as saying, “The prime minister did not know what day it was, what time is was or where he was. [The hospital officials] are not obligated to disclose everything, but to give inaccurate information is already taking a position and is very problematic. Throughout the first night of his hospitalization the confusion continued, to a lesser extent, and Sharon has not returned to himself completely.”