Netanyahu Health Said Good; Has Mild Blood Pressure Problem

TV: Sharon's doctors failed to report that he is nearly blind in left eye; PM to undergo cardiac catheterization.

The Associated Press
Aluf Benn Haaretz Service
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The Associated Press
Aluf Benn Haaretz Service

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, following the lead of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, has released his medical records, which show him to be in generally good health but under treatment for elevated blood pressure, Israeli media reported Tuesday.

"Netanyahu has a mild blood pressure problem," Maariv daily quoted Netanyahu's physician Prof. Eliezer Rachmilevich as writing in a medical opinion Monday.

"From time to time he is aided by moderate medication to balance his blood pressure."

The disclosure came after Sharon's physicians spoke at length Monday about his condition and the stroke he suffered last week.

The prime minister's doctors said that he was unable to make decisions and had difficulty speaking when he was rushed to the hospital after the stroke last Sunday night.

But the next day, Sharon was fit to make decisions and to serve as prime minister, said Tamir Ben-Hur, chief of neurology at Hadassah Hospital in Ein Karem.

Doctors also said the characterization of the stroke as "mild" was mistaken, as Sharon suffered from the stroke's effects for more than 24 hours.

Even so, Ben-Hur emphasized that at no point during Sharon's hospitalization was authority transfered to Finance Minister Ehud Olmert, the second in line after Sharon.

Before this detail was released, MK Michael Eitan (Likud) on Monday had called the exposure of Sharon's medical file a "manipulation." He said that doctors should unveil not only Sharon's test results but also a neurological assessment that would clarify whether the stroke damaged his abilities.

"The public must be sure that important decisions are being made by the prime minister and not by Omri Sharon and Dov Weisglass," Eitan said, referring to the prime minister's son and close adviser.

The physicians held a press conference to reveal Sharon's health details earlier on Monday.

According to a Channel 10 report Monday evening, Sharon's doctors failed to disclose that the prime minister is suffering from vision problems and is nearly blind in his left eye.

The physicians did announce that the premier will undergo a cardiac catheterization, which they explained would close a tiny hole in his heart that was discovered after his stroke last week.

Dr. Haim Lotem, head of cardiology at Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital, said the hole, measuring 1 to 2 millimeters, is a minor birth defect found in 15 to 25 percent of the general population.

Doctors concluded the blood clot that caused the stroke got lodged in the hole, restricting the flow of blood to his brain. Sharon is now having a blood-thinning medication injected twice a day until he undergoes the heart procedure, Lotem said.

The procedure, guided by a small camera inserted through the esophagus, is routine, doctors said. They said he will be partially sedated during the treatment.

"From our experience this is something that is only a minor birth defect. It doesn't need to be treated unless it causes problems," Lotem told reporters.

Doctors said the prime minister's stroke did not cause him any further damage.

"There is no injury to the brain," reporters quoted Ben-Hur as saying. "The prime minister is in exactly the same state now as he was the day before he was hospitalized."

The cardiac procedure would take about 30 minutes and does not involve surgery. It is due to take place in two to three weeks. Doctors suspect the hole was the reason for the clot that caused the stroke on Dec. 18.

The procedure involves inserting a tiny tube via a blood vessel into the heart to block the hole, a common birth defect.

Doctors said Sharon, 77, will make a full recovery from the mild stroke and that his blood pressure and cholesterol levels are normal.

Channel 10 television reported that Sharon weighed 115 kilos (254 pounds), overweight for Sharon's relatively short stature. According to Israel Radio, Sharon's physicians said that the prime minister has lost 3 kilos.

The television report said Sharon had a cholesterol level of 200, which, according to the American Heart Association, puts him on the cusp of borderline high risk.

The report by Sharon's doctors included findings from tests before and after his hospitalization, plans for monitoring his health and details of his future treatment.

The news conference was the first detailed exposure of the prime minister's physical conditions by the experts, and was viewed as representing an important milestone in expanding freedom of information in Israel and heightening public transparency regarding the state's leaders.

The news conference was organized by the Prime Minister's Office as an official event, under state auspices, not a partial report of Sharon's health released to the media through his aides.

The information was presented by Sharon's long-time personal physician and friend, Dr. Boleslav (Bolek) Goldman of Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer; Dr. Shlomo Segev, also of Sheba, who has served as Sharon's personal physician in recent years; and Prof. Ben-Hur, who was responsible for treating the prime minister's stroke last week.

In the past, Sharon had evaded requests to publicize his medical history, despite his stubborn claim that all the examinations attest to his good health and that their publication would worry only his political rivals. The partial information that has been released and the openness expressed by his staff seem to lend credence to his self-confidence.

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