Doctors concealed Sharon’s condition after first stroke

The general medical condition of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was more critical than his doctors and advisers have reported since his first stroke on December 18, 2005. In addition to the heart problem they disclosed, Sharon was suffering from cardiac and cerebral diseases that the doctors kept from the public. Sharon remains in critical but stable condition following the major stroke and massive cerebral hemorrhaging he suffered on January 4. Following Sharon’s hospitalization for the minor stroke, the doctors of the prime minister told the public he had a hole in the septa between the heart chambers, that had been present since his childhood. However, Haaretz’s inquiry shows that Sharon also suffered from more serious, life-threatening heart problems, including a large aneurysm in the septum. This is known to be a source of cerebral blood embolisms, and indeed led to the blood clot that caused Sharon’s first stroke, senior doctors at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem believe. However, Sharon also suffered from other heart diseases. These include a shunt that causes blood to flow spontaneously through the hole in the septum from right to left – the wrong direction – which is dangerous. Sharon also had other conditions in the cardiac septum that created further risks of blood clots that could wind up in the brain. Hadassah Hospital spokeswoman Yael Bossem-Levy dismissed the Haaretz report as containing nothing new. „Everything that appears in the item was discussed at the news conference” where the hole in the septum was disclosed, she said. Senior doctors said this usually requires early treatment with blood-thinners and cardiac catheterization, as the cardiologists and neurologists at Hadassah had recommended. But they said it also required closer surveillance, because the blood thinner Sharon had received could have been extremely dangerous, due to the additional disease discovered, cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA), which is liable to make cerebral hemorrhaging extremely hard to treat – as was the case. The CAA diagnosis, which Haaretz revealed some two weeks ago, was also concealed from the public. Click here to read more about the PM’s CAA diagnosis. Medical sources said that Sharon’s doctors had an ethical obligation to tell the prime minister and his family, as well as his confidants and advisers, of the risks involved in giving him the blood thinners. They said the doctors should also have reported the early signs of hemorrhaging and warned that an emergency evacuation to Hadassah might be necessary. Also, the catheterization should have been held earlier and Sharon should have had to stay close to Hadassah, rather than go home to Sycamore Ranch – as he had done, they said. „Had the catheterization been performed earlier, Sharon would very likely not have suffered the second cranial hemorrhage,” a source said. „If Sharon had arrived even half an hour earlier at Hadassah he would have been saved, or at least the brain damage would have been a lot less significant.” Senior doctors said the dangerous heart disease Sharon had raises several other questions about the partial and vague information that his doctors gave the media and the public under the guise of „full disclosure.” A senior source in Sharon’s bureau told Haaretz yesterday that confidants and advisers were not told of the severity of the prime minister’s illnesses, nor was the family told of the urgent need for catheterization. Haaretz has learned that Sharon’s doctors at Hadassah knew of the severe cardiac and cerebral diseases by the day after his first stroke. Another senior doctor said the doctors were stuck between a rock and a hard place. The cardiac disease created the danger of an embolism, but the medicine to prevent this increased chances of cerebral hemorrhaging. One of Israel’s leading cardiologists said yesterday that the latest discoveries about the medical condition of Sharon only strengthen the suspicion that his treatment, especially after his first stroke, was affected by nonmedical considerations. He was referring to Sharon’s hasty resumption of his work routine, designed to create the impression of „business as usual” and make the prime minister appear to be healthy. It was wrong of Sharon to resume his work and to stay at Sycamore Ranch, far from Hadassah, he said. „Sharon should have been resting, close to the hospital where the doctors treated him and knew his medical history. He should have been in a protected, comfortable environment. That’s exactly the `medical bulletproof vest’ he should have been given,” the cardiologist said. A senior internal medicine expert at the Maccabi health maintenance organization said the latest reports of Sharon’s condition „create a fuller, more realistic picture of a prime minister who is an elderly 78, who is not healthy and is considerably overweight, and has suffered a stroke, a cardiac aneurysm and a hole in his heart that created risks of another cerebral embolism. In addition, the CAA increased the risk of cerebral bleeding. „In contrast, the briefings given by Sharon’s doctors gave the public the impression that Sharon was not suffering from significant risk factors or dangerous diseases,” the expert said