December 12, 2013
An extra cerebral lesion raises concern
Information suggests president suffers minor case of ‘chronic subdural haematoma’
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was told by doctors to take a month off because of a blood on her brain from a head injury.
The 60-year-old president suffered trauma to the skull on August 12, her spokesman Alfredo Scoccimarro revealed late Saturday, adding she had been given the all-clear at the time following a CT scan at the Otamendi clinic.
No details were released about the cause of the previously undisclosed trauma the president allegedly suffered one day after the primaries. Neither was there an explanation of why the injury wasn’t disclosed earlier, even though the doctors say she had a CAT scan done on her brain in August during what was described as a gynecological visit.
Fernández de Kirchner was admitted for what was initially billed as a routine check-up earlier on Saturday to the Favaloro Foundation clinic, which specializes in cardiovascular problems. She had complained of arrhythmia and an intense headache.
Yet doctors discovered a “chronic subdural haematoma,” the accumulation of blood under a membrane that covers the brain. It usually occurs after a blow to the head.
The decision to discharge her suggests the haematoma is too small to be drained via surgery and is low risk, according to medical sources not involved in the treatment.
Surgeon Fernando Iglesia told news agency DyN that “subdural haematomas occur when blood clots in the subdural area, between the dura and the pia mater, two of the layers that cover the brain, and symptoms appear within a month of the trauma.”
The United States National Library of Medicine (USNLM) defines the ailment as “the collection of blood on the surface of the brain,” which can “occur after a very minor head injury, “especially in the elderly” and “may go unnoticed for many days to weeks.”
“Acute subdural haematomas are among the deadliest of all head injuries. The bleeding fills the brain area very rapidly, compressing brain tissue,” the institution points out.
According to the US National Institutes of Health, the surgery involves drilling small holes in the skull to drain the liquid and relieve pressure to reduce or prevent brain damage.
“Generally such patients are operated on with positive results and without any neurological problems,” Dr. Rolando Cárdenas Sánchez, a brain surgeon and director of the stroke committee at the Argentine Cardiological Society, told The Associated Press on Sunday.
As the head of state was discharged and merely told to rest, it suggests the president will not require surgical intervention, implying a minor case.
Symptoms include “confused speech, difficulty with balance or walking, headache, lethargy or confusion, loss of consciousness, nausea and vomiting, numbness, seizures, slurred speech, visual disturbances and weakness.”
Brain experts interviewed Sunday cautioned that without any information beyond the brief statement from the president’s doctors, they could not analyze her situation in detail. But Cárdenas Sánchez said the general description suggests that her chances were good for a full recovery.
“At the time of the blow, the tomograph or the diagnostic exam can appear normal because it doesn’t appear immediately. This chronic subdural haematoma can appear gradually and it pushes on the brain because the bone doesn’t move, and so inside the skull it pushes on the covering of the skull and produces pain,” Cárdenas Sánchez said.
Neurosurgeon Nicolas Arranz gave a similar review to the state-owned news agency Télam.
“In 95 percent of such cases, it’s the product of a blow that could have been minor, inconsequential, and not necessarily a heavy blow,” he said.
‘We’re talking about an injury outside the brain, not an accidental stroke, which is another kind of injury,” he added. “Anyway, these symptoms generally resolve themselves with a very low-risk operation in which the clot is removed.”
Speculation remains just that, however, and with the the USNLM describing the ailment as an “emergency condition,” concern is seemingly unavoidable.
Fernández de Kirchner had her thyroid glands removed last year after she was diagnosed with cancer, although later tests indicated it was a false positive and no cancer was present.
Herald with AP, Reuters, Télam, DyN