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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Avoids Risky Surgery as Ulcer Heals




President Boris Yeltsin will not require potentially risky surgery for his bleeding ulcer, doctors concluded after a gastroscopic examination Wednesday showed that it was starting to heal.


Still, the president, who was rushed to the Central Clinical Hospital on Sunday, was not expected to be released for at least a few weeks.


On Wednesday, Yeltsin underwent what the Kremlin called a "controlled" gastroscopic examination, in which a fiber-optic probe with a camera is passed through the throat and into the stomach, allowing doctors to inspect the ulcer.


Presidential spokesman Dmitry Yakushkin said the examination showed that Yeltsin's ulcer had "stopped bleeding, the inflammation and swelling of tissue stopped and the first signs of healing appeared," Russian news agencies reported.


Doctors will continue a course of drug treatment, the presidential press service said.


Yeltsin's condition is stable and he is now permitted to walk about the hospital ward and to work at a desk, Yakushkin was quoted as saying.


After Yeltsin was admitted to the Kremlin hospital, Russian stomach specialists, including experts at the Gastroenterology Research Institute, received a top-level order not to talk to the media about ulcer treatments.


The Kremlin apparently was worried that doctors could say something that could set off alarm bells about Yeltsin's health.


Professor John Calam, a gastroenterologist at Hammersmith Hospital in London, said that nonsurgical treatment of bleeding ulcers is common in the West.


Typically, he said, an endoscope is inserted into a patient's stomach first with an injection to stop bleeding, then one to apply medicine. It was unknown if Yeltsin had been treated in this way.


"Most patients go through it with no further problem, but there is a risk that the ulcer might start bleeding again. Then surgery may be needed," Calam said in a telephone interview.


"The whole thing is not dangerous for a younger person who can take blood loss. For an elderly person blood loss can lead to a heart attack," Calam said.


Dr. David Peura, a gastroenterologist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, called the doctors' conclusion that Yeltsin did not need surgery an encouraging piece of news.


He said the recurrence of bleeding is unlikely if the patient follows his doctors' instructions.


"The vast majority of ulcer cases do not require surgery nowadays. Mr. Yeltsin should do well," Peura said in a telephone interview.


Yeltsin has often been sidelined by illness in recent months and his latest hospitalization caused little reaction from his political opponents. Most of them now understand that pressing demands for the president to step down only threatens to further destabilize the country, analysts say.


"Yeltsin's decision to step down or to stay is not very important for the country now," said Andrei Ryabov, a scholar with the Carnegie Moscow Center. "His opponents have started to understand that calls for his resignation threaten the political stability in Russia. This stability is the only achievement of the past six months."


The Kremlin said Yeltsin is expected to spend up to three weeks in the hospital and will not be allowed to travel for up to three months.


Interfax quoted unidentified Russian medical experts as saying that Yeltsin's treatment could take six weeks, including a recovery period in a sanatorium.


U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is due in Moscow next week, is seeking a meeting with Yeltsin and may visit him at the hospital, Itar-Tass reported Wednesday.