Kennedy Surgery Called Success

By Rob Stein and Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was recovering last night after undergoing brain surgery to remove a malignant tumor, a risky and delicate procedure that offers the 76-year-old Democratic icon the best chance of extending his survival.

After spending a night in intensive care and then about a week at the hospital, Kennedy plans to return to his home state to undergo the next stage of his treatment: chemotherapy and radiation at Massachusetts General Hospital.

"I feel like a million bucks. I think I'll do that again tomorrow," Kennedy quipped to his wife, Victoria, after the 3 1/2 -hour surgery, said Stephanie Cutter, a family spokeswoman.

The surgery was "successful and accomplished our goals," neurosurgeon Allan H. Friedman, who performed the operation at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., said in a statement.

Kennedy was partly anesthetized but awake through most the procedure as surgeons monitored his responses to ensure that no crucial brain tissue was removed. Friedman said he should "experience no permanent neurological effects from the surgery."

No additional details were released about the senator's treatment, condition or prognosis. But experts who were not involved in his care said the decision to undergo surgery indicated that he and his doctors had opted for the most aggressive treatment, and that the surgeons thought they could safely remove a significant proportion of the tumor.

"It's a sign that there's hope that something could be done," said John H. Sampson, a neurosurgeon who works with Friedman. "It almost certainly won't be curative, but it should enhance the chances that additional treatment will be effective."

A successful surgery would be the removal of at least 90 percent of the tumor without major neurological damage, several experts said.

"If you are going to operate, you have to get 90 or 95 percent; otherwise you haven't made a difference in terms of survival," said Vivek Deshmukh, director of cerebrovascular and endovascular neurosurgery at George Washington University Medical Center.

Even after successful surgery and follow-up radiation and chemotherapy, Kennedy's prognosis remains fairly grim, experts said. Most patients with his type of tumor do not survive more than a year or two after diagnosis.

"If you didn't do the surgery, you're looking at a much shorter survival period -- on the order of a matter of months," Deshmukh said. "If you can go from three to six months of survival to a year or a year and a half, I think that's making a difference, particularly if he's not injured from it."

Others noted that some people with similar tumors have survived for years.

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