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Kennedy Is Hospitalized After Seizure
About one-fifth of people who have strokes also have a seizure at some point, Krauss said. They are "very common as evidence of prior injury. Some people can have had silent strokes that caused vascular injury and never know it."
A person having a seizure for the first time normally would be given a CAT scan of the head immediately to determine if there is bleeding, a tumor or swelling of the brain. Over the next 24 hours, most also would get an MRI scan, which often can reveal whether a stroke has occurred even in the absence of symptoms such as muscle weakness or language problems.
Most patients also are given anticonvulsant medicine for at least a few months, and often permanently, if doctors determine that they are at high risk for another seizure.
"In general, seizures in elderly persons are easy to treat. For him, the key thing is to make sure there is not some severe underlying cause," Krauss said.
Last August, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. suffered a seizure at his summer home in Maine, was rushed to a local hospital and was released two days later. Roberts had experienced a similar episode 14 years earlier.
According to the source close to the Kennedy family, Kennedy woke up feeling ill, then suffered the seizure. His family called 911 and rushed him to Cape Cod Hospital, where he was flown by helicopter to Massachusetts General. Doctors ruled out a stroke in the afternoon.
A family friend said Kennedy slumped at the breakfast table, where he felt disoriented and had some numbness in his face but experienced no paralysis or slurred speech. Doctors are exploring whether the episode is related to medications Kennedy has been taking since his surgery, the friend said.
Kennedy's sudden illness elicited an outpouring of sympathy from Republicans and Democrats alike, including all three of the remaining candidates for president. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), whom Kennedy endorsed as the standard-bearer of President John F. Kennedy's legacy, said he spoke with the senator's wife.
"I have been in contact with the family. Obviously, they are in our thoughts and prayers," Obama said.
"Senator Kennedy's role in the U.S. Senate cannot be overstated. He is a legendary lawmaker," said McCain, who teamed with Kennedy on tobacco-control legislation and a comprehensive immigration law overhaul, both of which failed after difficult legislative struggles.
Kennedy was elected to the Senate in 1962, just two years after his brother, John F. Kennedy, was elected president and a year before his assassination.
He emerged as one of the Senate's most prolific legislators and successful dealmakers. He teamed with President Bush during Bush's first term to co-author the president's signature No Child Left Behind education legislation but broke dramatically with Bush over the invasion of Iraq and has been one of Bush's fiercest critics ever since.
His loss to then-President Jimmy Carter for the 1980 Democratic presidential nomination cemented his reputation as the champion of the party's liberal wing. Last August, he became only the third senator to have cast 15,000 votes.
Staff writers Matthew Mosk in Eugene, Ore., Shailagh Murray in Washington and special correspondent Judy Rakowsky in Boston contributed to this report.