Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to get tracheotomy to help wean him off of respirator

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will undergo a tracheotomy Sunday night to help wean him off a respirator that has been helping him breathe since he suffered a massive stroke Jan. 4, hospital officials said Sunday.

Sharon remained in critical but stable condition Sunday evening ahead of the surgery, the hospital said in a statement. He was also to undergo a brain scan Sunday.

In the procedure, doctors will put Sharon under general anesthesia and cut a small hole in his neck to insert a tube directly into his windpipe.

Doctors said last week that Sharon might have to undergo the procedure because the plastic tube currently connecting the prime minister's windpipe with the respirator will start to cause him damage if it remains in for too long.

Sharon remained in critical but stable condition on Sunday, the hospital said. Doctors said Saturday that Sharon, who has been unconscious since suffering his devastating stroke, had activity on both sides of his brain, the AP reported.

Last week, doctors began weaning Sharon from the sedatives that had kept him in an induced coma to give his brain time to heal from the stroke and the three surgeries that followed. By Saturday, he was only receiving light sedation, but remained unconscious.

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