JERUSALEM, AP -Prime Minister Ariel Sharon underwent a brain scan Saturday to check for more bleeding and pressure in his skull as doctors prepared to assess how much damage the Israeli leader has suffered from his severe stroke.
The scan came a day after doctors performed a five-hour emergency brain operation on Sharon that they said successfully stopped a hemorrhage and relieved swelling on his brain. Although doctors reported “significant improvement” following the surgery, Sharon remained in serious condition.
Results from the brain scan were not expected until later Saturday unless there is a change in Sharon’s condition, Hadassah Hospital spokeswoman Yael Bossem-Levy said.
Outside experts have said the prognosis looks grim, given the severity of the prime minister’s stroke.
An official determination on Sharon’s condition won’t take place before Sunday, after doctors wean him off drugs meant to keep him in a medically induced coma and give him time to heal, said hospital spokesman Ron Krumer. They have given no specific information on his brain function.
“There is always some damage when you have cerebral hemorrhage,” Dr. Felix Umansky, the chief neurosurgeon operating on Sharon, told The Associated Press. “We cannot assess the damage because he is under anesthesia all the time. We need to wait and see what will happen once we reduce the medication which keeps him under sedation.”
Worshippers at Hadassah Hospital said a prayer for the ailing prime minister during services on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. Other synagogues were expected to mention Sharon by name in the special prayer for the ill recited on Sabbath.
Sharon’s stroke late Wednesday — his second in less than three weeks — threw the country into turmoil less than three months before national elections. His deputy, Ehud Olmert, was quickly named the acting prime minister.
Olmert took calls from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Friday, a sign that the Israeli government was moving ahead without its hard-charging leader.
Rice, who canceled a six-day trip to Indonesia and Australia, told Olmert that “every U.S. citizen, from the president to the last citizen, are praying for Sharon’s health,” Olmert’s office said.
Key members in Sharon’s Kadima Party said they would rally around Olmert, easing concerns that the movement, founded by Sharon two months ago, might fracture in his absence. A new poll showed Kadima emerging victorious in March 28 elections under Olmert’s leadership.
Palestinian leaders, holding a parliamentary election of their own Jan. 25, said they were also in touch with Israeli officials about Sharon’s condition. “We are closely monitoring the situation,” Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said.
With little hope that Sharon would return to power, Israelis mostly clung to memories of the charismatic leader who left his mark on almost every aspect of Israeli life, fighting in all its battles and capping his legacy as an immensely popular prime minister.
“He’s like an old car. You know they don’t make old cars like that anymore,” said Haim Zanko, 23, of Tel Aviv, who prayed for Sharon at the Western Wall.
Independent doctors said Sharon’s chances for recovery were slim, and Sharon’s aides said they were working on the assumption he would not return to work.
The bleeding and swelling treated Friday, while not unexpected, are life-threatening complications that make the prospect of survival ever slimmer, said Dr. Anthony Rudd, a stroke specialist at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London.
“It sounds like a last desperate attempt to salvage something, but the prognosis must now be terrible,” he said.
Noting that a CT scan shows the structure — not the function — of the brain, Rudd said the improvement that Sharon’s doctors referred to likely applies to the reduction of swelling seen in the earlier scan.
Sharon’s second stroke came hours before doctors were scheduled to repair a hole in his heart discovered after he suffered a mild stroke on Dec. 18.