Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was due to return to work barely a day and a half after undergoing lithotripsy, a non-surgical procedure to pulverize stones in his urinary tract. Prof. Boleslav Goldman, his personal physician at Sheba Medical Center, said that his patient was feeling "wonderful" and in good spirits.
The stones, comprised of calcium oxalate, began to make their presence known on Sunday, only a few days before, when they moved into one of his ureters from the kidney. This was very painful, but Sharon did not say a word about his discomfort during the cabinet meeting.
The hour-long procedure was "completely successful," said Goldman. The prime minister left Tel Hashomer shortly after midnight and returned to his Negev ranch by limousine.
He was told to drink a lot of water to help excrete the pulverized stones from his urinary tract. In lithotripsy, sound waves are beamed at the body from the outside via a bag of water that magnifies them. The procedure is performed under a regional anesthetic when the patient is fully awake.
Before this non-invasive technology was available, surgery was required to remove the stones.
About one in 10 Israelis suffer from stones in the urinary tract at some time in their lives. The cause is unknown, but it is more common in young people and those who live where the water has a high mineral content, as in Israel. A way of reducing the risk, ironically, is to drink more water to flush out the calcium oxalate.
Following the discovery of the kidney stones, Sharon canceled several meetings, including sessions with cabinet ministers from his Likud Party aimed at garnering support for his plan for unilateral disengagement from the Palestinians.
The treatment focused attention on the health of the then-75-year-old Sharon. Despite being overweight, Sharon was not reported to be suffering from any significant health problems.
Since becoming prime minister in March 2001, Sharon has rarely missed work because of illness. In December 2003, he was confined to bed for several days with what was described as influenza.
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