Schumacher slightly better after second operation but not yet out of danger
31 December, 2013
French doctors treating Michael Schumacher for brain injuries sustained in a ski fall have said that the seven-time Formula 1 World Champion was in slightly better condition on Tuesday after an overnight operation, but that he remained fragile.
The 44-year-old German is battling for his life after slamming his head against a rock while skiing off-piste in the French resort of Meribel on Sunday, an accident which triggered an outpouring of concern from around the world.
Doctors treating him at a hospital in the eastern city of Grenoble said his condition had stabilised enough by late Monday to carry out a new operation to treat the effects of internal bleeding within Schumacher’s skull.
“The situation is more under control than yesterday but we cannot say [that] he is out of danger,” Jean-Francois Payen, head anaesthetician, told a news conference at the CHU hospital in the eastern French city of Grenoble.
“We have won some time but we must continue an hour-by-hour surveillance…it is premature to speculate on his condition,” he said, adding that Schumacher was still in a critical state and suffering from severe lesions and contusions.
Emmanuel Gay, head of the hospital’s neurosurgery service, said the operation carried out around 10.00 pm (2100 GMT) on Monday had successfully removed a large hematoma – the medical term for a build-up of blood – from his brain.
“It was larger and more accessible (than others) . We judged [that] we could remove it without taking any risks,” Gay said.
He said the operation was designed to reduce, within Schumacher’s skull, the pressure on the brain.
Doctors said the fact that the retired motor racing Champion was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident had at least enabled him to make it to the hospital alive.
Payen said that the medical team in Grenoble had discussed the operation with Schumacher’s family. He added that the condition of the motor racing great was still too fragile to consider transferring him to another hospital for the time being.
Schumacher is under the care of Professor Gerard Saillant, a brain and spinal injury expert who is also president of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) Institute.
Saillant said it was still impossible to say how Schumacher’s condition would progress in coming days.
“We are a little less worried than yesterday but I’m sure [that] you understand that the situation could change this evening or tomorrow,” he told the news conference.
Schumacher, who lives in Switzerland with his wife and two children, is the most successful Formula 1 driver of all time with a record 91 race victories in a career spanning more than two decades.
Schumacher left the sport last year after a less than successful three-year comeback with Mercedes following an earlier retirement from Ferrari at the end of 2006.
French authorities have opened an investigation into the accident, which took place as Schumacher was out skiing with his teenage son.
Ferrari always used to have an annual January gathering with their drivers in the Dolomites and Schumacher, a fitness fanatic, impressed with his skiing ability.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had been deeply shocked to learn of his accident, her spokesman said on Monday as expressions of concern poured in from fans, former team-mates and rivals.
Former British Formula 1 driver David Coulthard said that he believed that Schumacher had not won the full recognition he merited for taking his sport to new heights.
“I only hope Michael Schumacher pulls through so that he can see all the nice things people are saying about him,” he wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper. (Reuters)
Transcripts from press conference:
Jacqueline Hubert, Grenoble Hospital director general: “Very late in the evening [Monday] another brain scan was carried out and we could see a slight improvement and allowed us to tell the family that we would be able to have another surgical intervention to reduce the hematoma and that surgical intervention took place overnight.”
“A new scan was carried out this morning [Tuesday] and it shows slight improvements, slight radiological improvements.”
Professor Jean-Francois Payen, head anaesthetician: “At the end of yesterday afternoon we had an improvement of intracranial pressure and we were able to carry out a scan without taking any kind of unnecessary risk.”
“That scan showed a few signs that were relatively stable and I would like to underline that – in other words we had no sign that there was a worsening on of the initial lesions.
“At that moment, talking to our neurological surgeons, taking into consideration [that] his state had slightly improved, we suggested [that] we would carry out a surgical intervention that had not been originally envisioned but that allowed us in the evening to treat in a more efficient fashion and in a more radical fashion to try and eliminate this intracranial pressure.
“This was carried out during the night with relatively good efficiency which allowed his this morning to look at new images and we were able to see that this hematoma had been evacuated in a very correct and very satisfactory fashion and we now have a few signs that currently can allow us to feel that it is better controlled than it was yesterday [Monday].”
“The situation is better controlled than it was yesterday, but we are unable to say that he is out of danger, however, we now have slightly more, we have gained a bit of time, with regard to development, but once again the coming hours are still critical,” he said.
“This surgical intervention helped us to control the situation better and it is slightly better than yesterday, but to say he is out of danger, that I can’t answer.”
“We haven’t reduced the treatment, he still remains in a coma and for the moment there is absolutely no question of evaluating from a neurological point of view and seeing how he will be when he wakes up. At the moment we still have some other problems and some other treatments that have to be made.”
Emmanuel Gay, Chief neurologist professor: “This was not the hematoma that had been removed the night before, this was a hematoma that was actually in the brain itself, but all the parameters last night allowed us to eliminate it and therefore together we decided to do so and at the same time to reduce intracranial pressure.”
“On the control scan that was carried out this morning the levels of intracranial pressure have improved, but the scan does show there are other lesions on other parts of the brain and those lesions are going to be supervised and followed up of course. We can’t for the moment envisage much more – we are just going to be regularly supervising the situation on an hourly basis and that is all we can say today [Tuesday].” (Transcript courtesy Sky)
Subbed by AJN.