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Schumacher “slightly improved,” but doctors still cautious

Dec 31, 2013, 5:50 AM EDT

France Schumacher Injured AP

Tuesday’s latest update from the medical team of doctors at Grenoble University Hospital in France is that Michael Schumacher’s condition is “slightly improved,” but that his condition is still critical and his situation will still need to be monitored on an hourly basis.

A new CT scan was taken late Monday night and showed an improved status, so an option was presented to Schumacher’s family as to whether to do another operation to further reduce pressure on his brain. A two-hour procedure then began at 10 p.m. to evacuate a hematoma on the left side of his brain.

Schumacher is still in an artificial coma, but the operation went well. Further hematomas do still exist, but the one that was removed was large, easily accessible and could be removed without undue risk, according to doctors.

“We have effectively at the end of the afternoon, received a transitional improvement in the pressure on the brain for Michael Schumacher,” anesthesiologist professor Jean-Francois Payen explained, via a stream aired by the BBC. “This meant we could take a new scan without putting him at risk. This showed signs he is relatively stable. So there is no worsening of the initial lesions.

“In discussing this with my neurosurgeon colleagues, we decided that since there was an improvement, we should do this operation. We didn’t think to do so initially. In the evening, this operation would allow, to reduce further the pressure on the brain. We did this overnight, and with a relatively good result. So this morning we took some more pictures/scans. We have noticed to evacuate the hematoma further, the situation is better controlled than yesterday.”

Doctors would not use the word “optimistic,” yet, instead cautioning this remains an hour-by-hour process. But they did admit to feeling less anxious than at the time 24 hours ago.

They also said repeatedly they cannot forecast how Schumacher’s condition will change over the next hours. While it could improve, it could also get worse.

All decisions have been made in consultation with Schumacher’s family, who remain at his bedside. No transfer of hospital will occur at this time; a transfer has been ruled “too dangerous” by the doctors due to Schumacher’s delicate state.

Doctors ended the half-hour press conference saying they would ask that press conferences be the only form of updates, rather than one-on-one interviews, to allow the medical team to continue to do its job. They reiterated that the only difference between Schumacher and the hospital’s other patients in the presence of the press; that all patients receive the same level of care.

Further updates, then, will only come when there is a change in condition, via another press conference. Schumacher sustained the head injuries on Sunday and doctors said it was too early to provide a prognosis on Monday.

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