Surgery 'Considered a Success,' Senator's Office Says

By David Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 16, 2006

Wednesday's operation to stop bleeding in Sen. Tim Johnson's brain was "considered a success," his office said yesterday, although the few details released about his condition suggested he was not fully conscious two days after the procedure.

The statement quoted Anthony Caputy, one of the surgeons who performed the emergency surgery on Johnson (D-S.D.), as saying: "Considering his initial presentation, his progress is encouraging. He is now stabilized and continues to show signs of responsiveness to the medical staff and the family."

Johnson, 59, briefly became incoherent on Wednesday. He was rushed to George Washington University Hospital and diagnosed with an arteriovenous malformation, an unstable tangle of blood vessels in his brain. The malformation bled Wednesday night, and surgeons operated to stop the hemorrhage and remove a large clot that was pressing on his brain.

The pressure inside Johnson's brain is now normal and he has not bled further, the statement said. It noted that after events like his, the brain is often swollen.

"Much like a bruise, it takes time to heal," Caputy is quoted as saying.

Johnson's physicians also put a filter-like device in his inferior vena cava, the largest vein the body, which carries blood back to the heart from the legs, abdomen and chest. It will catch any clots that may form in his leg or pelvic veins and that could dislodge and travel to his lungs -- a potentially fatal event.

Such clots can form when a person is immobile for a long time. Normally, physicians give such patients the anticoagulant heparin to prevent clots. With Johnson's recent bleeding, however, that would be too risky.

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