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Russia: Yeltsin's Surgery A Success; Doctors Predict Return To Work

Moscow, 5 November 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The doctor who performed a multiple heart bypass operation on Russian President Boris Yeltsin today says Yeltsin will make a full recovery and will be able to work normally again soon.

Renat Akchurin, the heart surgeon who led a team of 12 specialists, including four surgeons that performed the seven-hour operation today, told a news conference in Moscow that Yeltsin's heart had been stopped for 68 minutes during the operation. He said Yeltsin was kept alive on a heart-lung machine.

Akchurin said the surgery had gone well and there had been no unexpected problems. He said Yeltsin still faces the recovery period, but his heart would now be expected to function well. He said the operation had been aimed at improving the blood supply to Yeltsin's heart and clear clogged arteries.

However, Akchurin declined to say how many bypasses he performed on the president, insisting it was a personal matter for the patient. He said that "the number of bypasses is much more than the figure (three or four) previously mentioned." He said it was up to Yeltsin to decide whether to make this information public.

At the same news conference, Akchurin told reporters that he had "tried to forget that it was the president, and tried to imagine that it was a normal, ordinary patient that we were operating on."

Asked when Yeltsin would be able to reclaim his presidential powers from Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Akchurin said probably in the next few days. He said that Yeltsin "is going to decide that himself."

Akchurin refused to comment on how long it would take Yeltsin to fully recover and said that usually a prognosis is given five to six days after the operation.

Immediately before the start of his operation this morning Yeltsin had transferred all presidential powers to Chernomyrdin.

Akchurin added that Yeltsin is still under anesthesia and his lungs are being ventilated artificially. Medical experts have said the post-operative stage is the crucial part of Yeltsin's treatment. Specialists advising the Russian team of doctors include two experienced German specialists in post-operative complications.

U.S. heart specialist Michael DeBakey, who advised on the operation, said the surgery was a complete success and Yeltsin should recover quickly and resume his full duties. DeBakey told a news conference in Moscow that on the basis of the results of the operation he "would predict Yeltsin to be able to return to his office and perform his duty in perfectly normal fashion."

Meanwhile, world leaders wished Russian President Boris Yeltsin a speedy recovery following his more than seven-hour heart by-pass operation earlier today.

Among those wishing the 65-year-old president well were U.S. President Bill Clinton, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, French President Jacques Chirac, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, Romanian President Ion Ilescu and the Chinese government.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda said he hoped Yeltsin would be able to return as shortly as possible to work. While Czech Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec said the success of Yeltsin's operation was good news for Europe and the world.