Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's doctors announced Tuesday morning that there was no change in his condition overnight, adding that it was uncertain whether his prolonged coma should be considered a negative sign.
Hadassah officials on Monday said they could not confirm reports claiming that
Sharon had opened his eyes and appeared to follow movements in the room.
The hospital, which first denied the report, later issued a statement saying that family members had interpreted "eyelid movements" as an opening of Sharon's eyes.
Sharon, officials stressed, is still in serious condition.
Dr. Anthony Rudd, a stroke specialist at St. Thomas' Hospital in London, said eye movement - including eye opening - is "not a dramatic breakthrough."
"A coma is not an absolute all-or-nothing state. There are various stages," Rudd said. "His coma may be lightening a bit. It's not a dramatic breakthrough."
Given the length of the coma, "one still needs to be pessimistic," he said, adding, "It means more if he opens his eyes in response to someone talking to him than it does if he simply opens them in response to strong stimulation or pain."
Sharon underwent the successful surgical insertion of a tracheostomy tube to "help doctors wean him" from his respirator on Sunday night.
Sharon has been on the respirator since he suffered a massive stroke January 4.
A tracheostomy involves making a small hole in the windpipe while the patient is under general anesthesia and attaching a ventilator to it, rather than to a mask over his face.
Doctors said last week that Sharon might have to undergo the procedure because the plastic tube connecting the prime minister's windpipe with the respirator via his mouth would start to cause him damage if it remained in for too long.
The minor surgery, which the Hadassah University Medical Center spokeswoman said was "part of his treatment plan," was preceded by a computerized tomography (CT) scan.
Sharon remained in critical but stable condition Sunday evening ahead of the surgery, the hospital said in a statement.
Asked whether doctors still hope Sharon will emerge from his coma, the hospital spokeswoman said: "Yes."
Doctors said Saturday that Sharon, who has been unconscious since suffering his devastating stroke, had activity on both sides of his brain.
Last week, doctors began weaning Sharon from the sedatives that had kept him in an induced coma to give his brain time to heal from the stroke and the three surgeries that followed. By Saturday, he was only receiving light sedation, but remained unconscious.