The surgery for Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin will be postponed for at least six weeks because his heart is damaged and he will probably need another two months after a triple- or quadruple-bypass operation to recuperate, his doctors said Wednesday.
That announcement by Russian surgeons and Michael DeBakey, the American heart-bypass pioneer who is consulting here, was aimed at dispelling fears that Yeltsin, 65, who has been hospitalized for almost two weeks, is too weak to undergo surgery.
But it threatened to leave Moscow without an active leader for most of the winter and prompted even more moves by the president’s potential successors to draw attention to themselves.
The medical luminaries, who met for three hours of consultations at the Central Clinical Hospital, were determinedly upbeat about the delay in the president’s planned surgical procedures. They said Yeltsin’s condition had improved since a heart attack in late June - a seizure unreported at the time - and the delay was needed to ensure success.
“If we were to conduct the operation today, we could expect a positive result. The chances of the positive result would be about 80 percent. But if we give the patient another six weeks to prepare for the operation, the chances of success will be close to 100 percent,” said Renat S. Akchurin, the surgeon who is expected to operate on Yeltsin, with DeBakey watching.
As well as heart muscle damage, DeBakey admitted that Yeltsin had been losing blood in recent months and said the cause for this needed to be investigated. “It is an easily correctable thing, but we have to be sure,” he said, adding that the Russian leader’s kidneys and liver are functioning normally.
The drawn-out timetable announced Wednesday would schedule the operation between early November and early December - and DeBakey left open the possibility of more postponements by saying the timing depended on what the medical team observed in the next six weeks.
Kremlin officials have no political option now but to continue to insist that Yeltsin will soon be fit enough to undergo surgery. Any suggestion that he is too ill to operate upon would intensify a struggle between his would-be successors; it would threaten Russia’s post-election stability.
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