Magazine article Newsweek

Too Weak for Surgery? Serious New Questions about Yeltsin's Prognosis

Magazine article Newsweek

Too Weak for Surgery? Serious New Questions about Yeltsin's Prognosis

Article excerpt

Serious new questions about Yeltsin's prognosis

JUST THREE WEEKS AGO, BORIS Yeltsin and his doctors had made it sound like the arterial equivalent of a teeth cleaning. Heart-bypass operations are routine these days; men of Yeltsin's age have them all the time and come back strong. Barely acknowledged was the role of the patient's medical history in determining the surgery's outcome, and even in deciding whether to have it at all. Late last week Yeltsin's physicians admitted that their patient is a fragile specimen--and that there are great risks in the bypass surgery he needs. So great, in fact, that Yeltsin's lead surgeon conceded on Friday that surgery might not happen at all.

In an interview with ABC News, Dr. Renat Akchurin corroborated what many in Moscow (including the president's political opponents) had suspected: that before the second round of this summer's presidential elections, Yeltsin apparently suffered another heart attack--his third in two years. The series of attacks, Akchurin said, has caused scarring around the heart that increases the risk of a bypass operation. Asked flatly if it might be too dangerous, Akchurin, Moscow's leading heart surgeon, replied: "It might be."

Yeltsin entered the hospital Sept. 18 for what his spokesman described as routine presurgery tests that would last over a weekend. Russian TV showed the president in a cardigan sweater, chatting amiably with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. But the head of the Kremlin's health center, Sergei Mironov, now says Yeltsin will remain in the hospital until at least Sept. …

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