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Cerebral hemorrhages -- a closer look

Doctors: Sharon stroke caused by bleeding in the brain

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STROKE SYMPTOMS

• Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arms or legs

• Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding others

• Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

• Sudden trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance or coordination

• Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Source: The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

(CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered massive bleeding in his brain from a type of stroke called a cerebral hemorrhage, his doctors said Wednesday.

A cerebral hemorrhage happens when small blood vessels bleed in the brain and cause a blood clot. This causes pressure on the brain, eventually killing normal brain cells, which can cause permanent disability or death.

It was Sharon's second brain attack in less than three weeks. After the first, he was put on blood-thinning medications which may have contributed to the hemorrhage.

Having a previous stroke, having high blood pressure or smoking can increase a person's chances of having a stroke.

Sharon was taken by ambulance Wednesday to the hospital after complaining of chest pain and weakness, said Ra'anan Gissin, his senior adviser. He was conscious when he arrived at the hospital, Gissin said.

"After that, apparently there was some worsening of the condition," he said.

Doctors sedated Sharon and performed an MRI scan, Gissin said. They diagnosed a cerebral hemorrhage and he was taken into surgery to remove the blood, a procedure which was expected to take several hours.

Sharon had suffered a smaller stroke caused by a blood clot on December 18. He never lost consciousness during that incident, according to Tamir Ben Hur, head of neurology at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital.

"There was no slurring. He was not confused. He suffered from a certain difficulty in speaking. A small blood clot briefly blocked a blood vessel in his brain," the doctor said.

Ben Hur said the clot was dissolved by medication, adding, "Our comprehensive investigation has shown definitely that the stroke will not leave any damage or traces." (Full story)

It was during treatment for the first stroke that doctors discovered he had a small hole in his heart that could have led to the formation of the clot that may have caused the mild stroke.

The second massive stroke came hours before scheduled surgery to repair the hole in his heart.

Doctors had ordered the overweight prime minister to go on a diet. Sharon's doctors said earlier this week that he weighed 260 pounds (118 kilograms) at the time of the stroke, and had lost more than 6 pounds (3 kilograms) since then.

Sharon's doctors said then that his blood pressure and cholesterol levels were normal, though he has an under-active thyroid gland -- common in overweight people.

CNN's Sanjay Gupta contributed to this report.

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