Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Spanish newspaper: Castro prognosis 'very grave'


MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- A Spanish newspaper cited sources at a Madrid hospital Tuesday saying that Cuban leader Fidel Castro suffered from a serious infection of the large intestine and faces a "very grave prognosis," but the doctor who examined Castro last month said he stood by his statement of last month that Castro was recovering from his ailments.

El Pais -- one of Spain's largest and most reliable papers -- reported that two sources at the Madrid hospital told its reporters that Castro had suffered complications after three failed surgeries to correct the problems.

Dr. Jose Luis Garcia Sabrido, chief of surgery at the public hospital Gregorio Maranon in Madrid, traveled to Havana in December where he examined Castro for about 90 minutes. He told CNN's Al Goodman Tuesday that he was not the source of the report in newspaper El Pais.

"Any statement that doesn't come directly from his (Castro's) medical team is without foundation," Dr. Garcia Sabrido said.

Garcia Sabrido refused to further comment on the report and instead referred Goodman to his statement made on December 26 in which he said Castro is recovering from his ailments and does not have cancer. At that time, Garcia Sabrido told reporters that Castro was doing "fantastically well" with his treatment.

The doctor had led a conference at the 9th Cuban Congress of Surgery in Havana last month and, according to Spanish newspaper El Periodico de Catalunya, traveled to Cuba aboard a Cuban government plane. In addition, the Cuban Embassy oversaw all details of his visit, the newspaper reported.

Spain's El Pais reported that Castro suffered from diverticulitis, an inflammation of sacs on the large intestine that can rupture and cause bleeding. The infection spread to the tissue on the walls of the abdomen, a condition called peritonitis.

The infections, the paper said, have impeded the healing process.

According to El Pais, the Cuban leader has undergone at least three operations on his large intestines that have had various complications.

Based on the newspaper's descriptions, CNN's Sanjay Gupta said it appeared that Castro's first surgery likely entailed the removal of a portion of his infected intestine and of his rectum. The surgery likely also involved the connection of two parts of his intestine, a difficult procedure.

The second surgery was to clean out infection in the abdominal cavity, reconnect broken parts of the connected intestine and put a small prosthesis in the gall bladder, Gupta said.

A third operation would have required surgeons to replace the prosthesis, fix the gall bladder and again reconnect the two parts of intestine, Gupta added. (Watch Gupta explain what the reported operations would entailVideo)

But the operation apparently is not working, Gupta cited the report as saying. "He is still leaking half a liter of fluid into his abdominal cavity every single day, which is a lot. He is a very sick guy, and that just leads to more infection," Gupta said.

The El Pais report was posted on the newspaper's Web site early Tuesday and then on the front page of its Madrid print edition.

Castro, 80, underwent intestinal surgery on July 31, and has not been seen in public since. The Cuban government has released at least one video of him.

CNN's Al Goodman contributed to this report.

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