Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's medical condition has deteriorated, officials at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, where Sharon is being hospitalized, said Sunday.

Officials said doctors discovered a decline in the functioning of Sharon's kidneys and that the former prime minister was accumulating liquids in his body.

Medical examinations also showed changes in Sharon's brain tissue. Sharon's family is thoroughly aware and has been updated on the former PM's condition, and remains constantly by his bedside in the hospital's Department of Respiratory Care and Rehabilitation.

Sharon lost consciousness since falling victim to a massive stroke on January 4 of this year. He underwent a serious of complicated surgical procedures in his brain and has yet to regain consciousness. Since his hospitalization, Sharon has been breathing with the aid of a respiratory machine.

Senior doctors who are not directly involved with the former premier's treatment believe that one may "characterize his state as 'vegetative'."

Two months ago, Sharon was moved to Tel Hashomer from his hospital bed in Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem in Jerusalem. In a briefing with reporters following Sharon's transfer to Sheba, hospital director Professor Ze'ev Rothstein said that the principle goals of Sharon's treatment are to wean him off of the respirator and help him regain consciousness.

Rothstein said the goals are extremely ambitious, adding that due to Sharon's state, there are likely to be "storms" and complications which may arise in his condition, such as infections which would necessitate surgery and thus put his life in considerable jeopardy.

The Sheba director said the chances of reaching the stated goals for Sharon's treatment "are not great."

Professor Rothstein said that Sharon's sons, Omri and Gilad, have input into decisions related to their father's treatment. The issue of possibly disconnecting the former premier from the respirator has yet to be raised, Rothstein said.

Along with Sharon, eighteen other patients are hospitalized in the respiratory unit, whose rooms are meant to hold two patients at a time.

Sharon is currently the lone occupant of his room, which is also meant for two patients. In a highly unusual arrangement, the hospital has assigned nurses whose sole task is to care for the comatose premier. The nurses are in close vicinity to his room, working three shifts 24 hours a day.