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Sharon heart operation set for Thursday

Doctors hope to close small hole

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Ariel Sharon
Israel

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will have an operation Thursday to repair a small hole in his heart, his office said Sunday.

The hole was discovered during tests after Sharon suffered a minor stroke December 18.

Dr. Chaim Lotem said the hole, measuring 1 to 2 millimeters, is a minor birth defect found in 15 percent to 25 percent of people.

Lotem said that during the heart catheterization procedure doctors would use a thin plastic tube to insert an "umbrella-like" device that will seal the hole between the two upper chambers of the heart.

Doctors said the blood clot that caused the stroke was lodged in the hole, restricting the flow of blood to Sharon's brain. The prime minister will take Clexin, a blood-thinning medication, twice a day until the heart procedure, Lotem said.

Doctors hope the procedure will prevent more blood clots.

Although Sharon had difficulty speaking during the stroke, neurological testing found that he recalled everything from the night of his admission, Lotem said.

Doctors said Monday that Sharon suffered no lasting brain damage. He was released from the hospital two days after the stroke and has resumed his work load.

The health scare has raised concerns about the 77-year-old leader's ability to work as he runs for a third term.

Doctors have ordered the overweight prime minister to go on diet. Sharon's doctors said he weighed 118 kilograms (260.2 pounds) at the time of the stroke, and has lost three kilos (6.6 pounds) since then.

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

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