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Argentine leader ordered to rest after head injury

Sunday - 10/6/2013, 3:24pm  ET

BELEN BOGADO
Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -- Cristina Fernandez's government was moving into uncharted political territory on Sunday after doctors ordered the Argentine president to take a month's rest upon finding blood on her brain from a head injury.

While the prescription may be good medicine, experts say removing such an important figure from the campaign trail just three weeks before congressional elections could prove politically risky.

The president's spokesman Alfredo Scoccimarro did not say during his televised Saturday announcement about Fernandez's medical condition whether she will continue managing the country from the presidential residence, or take medical leave and hand the government over to Vice President Amado Boudou.

It's a hard time for Fernandez, a tireless campaigner, to disappear from Argentina's political scene. Her opponents made significant gains in primary elections. With her doctors' latest orders, she cannot campaign for her allies ahead of Oct. 27 congressional midterm elections that will determine whether her ruling party can retain the seats necessary to allow her to keep governing with virtually unchecked power.

In his announcement, Scoccimarro said the president had suffered a previously undisclosed "skull trauma" on Aug. 12, one day after the primaries. He did not release any details about the injury.

Scoccimarro read a statement signed by the president's doctors saying they did a CAT scan of her brain after the head injury and found nothing wrong, and that afterward she suffered no symptoms.

But the spokesman said problems surfaced Saturday after the 60-year-old leader went to a hospital to check on an irregular heartbeat. Because she was suffering headaches, they looked at her skull again, too, and found a subdural hematoma, or bleeding between the brain and the skull. The statement defined the condition as "chronic" and not "acute," suggesting that it had been building up slowly.

"The president had a cardiovascular study done in the Fundacion Favaloro and given that she had head pain, they did neurological studies, diagnosing a 'chronic subdural collection' (bleeding on the brain), and they ordered her to rest for a month," said the doctors' statement. It added that the doctors will closely watch how the bleeding evolves using imaging technology.

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the symptoms of chronic subdural collections usually do not heal by themselves and often require surgery that involves drilling small holes in the skull to drain the liquid, relieving pressure and to reduce or prevent brain damage.

In January of 2012, Fernandez had her thyroid glands removed fearing that they were cancerous, but tests later showed no presence of cancerous cells. She also suffers from chronic hypertension, and has periodically had to take several days rest.


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