OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AFP) â€” Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is to return to hospital early next month to undergo a minor procedure in order to repair a tiny hole in his heart, his doctors said on Monday.
Professor Haim Lotan told reporters that Sharon would undergo â€œa catheterisation in the next two or three weeksâ€ to repair the hole which was discovered during his treatment last week in the aftermath of a minor stroke.
Lotan said that minor stroke, which the 77-year-old Sharon suffered on December 18, was caused â€œby a clotting of blood which came from the heart.â€
The professor said Sharon was already taking drugs in order to thin his blood. During the surgery, the prime minister would be under sedation but would not be under general anaesthetic, Lotan said.
The catheterisation would involve the insertion of a tube through a blood vessel into the heart and the opening of an umbrella-like device which should close up the hole, which measures around two millimetres.
News that Sharon is to undergo the procedure came as a team of doctors released Sharon’s health records, a first for an Israeli prime minister.
The move was designed to fend off any suggestion of a cover-up over the premier’s health in the lead-up to a March 28 general election when he will be 78.
Were Sharon to win and complete a full term of office, he would be 82 and much the oldest prime minister in the history of the Jewish state.
The doctors reiterated that the stroke that Sharon suffered eight days ago was â€œvery minor.â€ While his powers of speech were affected for several hours, it had no impact â€œon his memory and other faculties.â€
The doctors also emphasised that Sharon was â€œin good health,â€ his only problem being with his weight.
Since he was admitted to hospital, the prime minister’s weight had fallen from 118 to around 115 kilograms, they added.
US President George W. Bush has joined Sharon’s doctors in urging him to adopt a healthier diet, a message that seems to be getting through.
In a message to Israelis at the start of the Hanukkah festival of lights on Sunday, Sharon said: â€œDon’t overdo it with the doughnuts and the potato pancakes. Eat, yes but don’t overdo it.â€
The issue of a prime minister’s health has become sensitive in Israel after two of Sharon’s late predecessors, Golda Meir and Menachem Begin, both concealed major health problems from voters.
Sharon has already returned to work, chairing a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday.
He suffered the stroke while driving from his official residence in Jerusalem to his ranch in the southern Negev Desert.
On his release from the city’s Hadassah Hospital last week, doctors asked Sharon to remain in Jerusalem for the time being in order that he could receive on the spot treatment.