December 11, 2013
Doctors: CFK’s surgery is low-risk, routine
The operation will likely involve drilling small holes through the president’s skull
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will undergo surgery today to remove blood between her brain and skull that has been causing new and worrying symptoms, her physicians announced yesterday. The head of state could now have to rest for up to three months to recover from the surgery.
The president’s doctors had ordered Fernández de Kirchner to rest for a month after discovering the chronic subdural haematoma — a clot inside her skull pressuring her brain and causing headaches, but the situation became more urgent after the head of state felt a weakness and numbness in her upper left arm Sunday evening, according to doctors at the Fundacion Favaloro, one of the country’s top cardiology hospitals.
After being examined at the Olivos presidential residency following her complaints, the president was “admitted once again to the hospital for her preparation and pre-surgical cardiovascular examinations.”
“Facing these symptoms, the team decided on surgical intervention,” the hospital’s doctors said in a statement yesterday.
The surgery, scheduled for 8am today, is likely to involve drilling small holes through the skull to remove coagulated blood, a procedure known as burr holes.
A diagnosis is reached by doctors after checking the patient’s balance, coordination, mental functions, sensation and strength. But because symptoms are often subtle, computer scans of the head or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam may be necessary.
In a three-paragraph statement released late Saturday that raised more questions than answers, her doctors attributed the injury to a still unexplained blow to her head she suffered on August 12. That would have been the day after a primary vote showed a significant drop in support for ruling party candidates.
The statement issued Saturday night contradicted earlier claims about the nature of Fernández de Kirchner’s hospital tests. During one visit in August that had been described as gynaecological, a brain scan was performed that didn’t find anything wrong, presidential spokesman Alfredo Scoccimarro revealed.
Experts said it’s not unusual for symptoms of a chronic subdural haematoma to take weeks to appear, and many patients don’t even recall injuring their heads, according to the US Mayo Hospital.
The US National Institute of Health said symptoms can include confusion, decreased memory, difficulty speaking and walking, drowsiness, headaches, and weakness or numbness in the arms, leg or face.
The surgery is considered low risk, and the symptoms can be effectively and safely treated by draining the blood mass through a catheter, according to guidance from the University of Los Angeles.
Doctors Edgardo Cristiano and Federico Micheli, the heads of neurology at the Italiano and Clínicas hospitals respectively, described the operation as “one of the simplest surgeries,” lasting “between 30 minutes and an hour.”
“It’s usually not necessary to open the cranium, this only occurs when there are complications,” said Cristiano, adding that “recovery is very quick; patients tend to be in good condition the day after, they have a day in intensive care, and are usually able to go home within the third or fourth day.”
The president’s doctors ruled that the operation was necessary to reduce or prevent permanent brain damage, but details of the procedure were not divulged aside from stating that it would include the “drainage of said haemotoma.” It may include drilling small holes in skull to relieve pressure and suction out fluid. Large haematomas or solid blood clots may require opening section of the skull, which is called a craniotomy.
Even as everyone seemed to take pains to emphasize the low risk of the procedure, that does not mean there is no risk.
The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) reports that an “estimated one in 20 people will die within the first 30 days after having surgery to treat a chronic subdural haematoma.”
Complications can include the formation of a new clot during the
Although the vast majority of patients recover quickly, it can also be prolonged and incomplete in certain cases. Patients may need medication to control or prevent seizures for up to a year, with symptoms including amnesia, attention difficulty, anxiety, sleep problems, muscle weakness on one side of the body, dysphasia, and headaches.
Most adults recover within six months, but some patients may need further surgery if the fluid returns.
According to the NHS, “recurrence of the haematoma occurs in an estimated one in 10 cases and may require further surgery to correct it.”
Herald with AP, DyN