Mother Teresa, though still in critical condition, gradually was strengthening enough for a delicate artery test, doctors said Thursday.
Doctors want to perform the test, known as an angiogram, as soon as possible to determine whether blocked arteries have been causing chest pain and other problems for the 86-year-old nun. But her age and weak condition make the test risky.
Doctors postponed the test Wednesday and now won’t say when they think they can perform it.
“She’s very, very slowly improving, but her condition is still critical,” said A.K. Chatterjee, director of Calcutta’s B.M. Birla Heart Research Center, where Mother Teresa was staying in preparation for the angiogram.
Chatterjee said Mother Teresa sat up in a chair briefly Thursday, the first time she had been out of bed since arriving at the hospital.
Angiograms involve puncturing an artery, usually in the groin, and threading a tube up into the chest arteries that feed the heart. Dye is then injected into the arteries and X-ray pictures are taken.
If the angiogram shows it is necessary, doctors then will dilate her arteries with tiny balloons to improve the flow of blood, a procedure known as angioplasty.
Mother Teresa underwent angioplasties in 1993 and 1991.
Mother Teresa has had a mild throat and chest infection for the past several days, and her doctors also were concerned about chest pains she has been experiencing this week, an irregular heartbeat first detected three months ago, and her weakened lungs.
On Wednesday, she had no chest pains for the first time since the weekend. Overnight, according to the hospital, she experienced “minor chest discomfort” but no pain.
Mother Teresa, recipient of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, has had two heart attacks since 1983 and received a pacemaker in 1989.
So far this year, she has been hospitalized four times - twice with heart problems and twice with injuries from falls.
Aides have taken over more and more of the day-to-day running of her Missionaries of Charity since Mother Teresa’s health began to fail.
The order operates 517 orphanages, homes for the poor, AIDS hospices and other charity centers around the world, including 169 in India.