JERUSALEM – A test has shown activity in both sides of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's brain, but he remains comatose and in critical but stable condition, Hadassah Hospital said Saturday in its first update on the Israeli leader's condition in more than 24 hours.
Experts said activity in both sides didn't indicate anything about the extent of the brain damage Sharon may have suffered as a result of his devastating stroke on Jan. 4.
"It is another piece of information that on its own means nothing," said Dr. Gal Ifergan, a neurologist at Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva, who is not treating Sharon.
Sharon could still have extensive brain damage but show activity on both sides of his brain, Ifergan said.
"It's very worrisome that he hasn't woken from his coma," Ifergan added. "Coma reflects brain damage. (But) it's hard to talk about prospects for awakening without knowing the patient."
The terse statement released by hospital spokeswoman Yael Bossem-Levy after the end of the Jewish Sabbath said an electroencephalogram (EEG) conducted on Friday, "showed both sides of the brain were functioning, a reflection of the prime minister's condition." There was no elaboration.
Earlier this week, doctors began weaning Sharon from the coma they induced to give his brain time to heal from the stroke and the three surgeries that followed. The sedation level on Saturday was light, hospital spokesman Ron Krumer said, but he had no information on when Sharon might be totally off anesthetics.
The 77-year-old leader's failure to wake up could be a sign that his comatose condition is due to the stroke itself, and not the sedatives.
On Friday, Channel 1 TV cited one of Sharon's neurosurgeons, Dr. Felix Umansky, as saying he was optimistic Sharon would emerge from his coma within 10 days.
But some outside experts have said the prognosis for recovery looked poor, given the severity of the stroke and the extended coma.
Doctors have reported only slight improvement in Sharon's condition in the past several days, centering on small movements of limbs in response to pain.
Sharon's stroke plunged Israeli politics and Mideast peace prospects into turmoil, as he was seen as the politician best positioned to end Israel's conflict with the Palestinians.
But as his coma drags on, Israelis are gearing up to move on without him. Polls show Sharon's Kadima party, which advocates further territorial concessions to the Palestinians and the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state, taking more than one-third of parliament's 120 seats in March 28 elections.
And Sharon's heir apparent, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, has avoided a confrontation with the Palestinians over their Jan. 25 legislative elections by agreeing to let Palestinians vote in symbolically significant east Jerusalem. Both sides claim Jerusalem as their capital.