GRENOBLE, France – Michael Schumacher underwent a second surgery after a brain scan showed small, surprising signs of improvement, but grim doctors said Tuesday they could offer no insight into the prognosis for the Formula One champion.
Schumacher, who turns 45 on Friday, suffered critical head injuries when he fell and struck a rock Sunday while skiing in the French Alps. His manager confirmed that the accident cracked his helmet, which doctors credited for giving him a chance at survival.
Schumacher’s condition stabilized somewhat after the second surgery, but he remains in a medically induced coma – and doctors gave no prediction on how long that would last.
We cannot tell you any more about the future, said Gerard Saillant, a surgeon and friend of the family. Saillant said it would be stupid to make any predictions about Schumacher’s recovery.
Schumacher and his 14-year-old son were skiing in the French Alpine resort of Meribel when he fell and hit the right side of his head on a rock. He was taken first to a local hospital, then to Grenoble University Hospital, which is recognized as having one of France’s best neurology teams.
Dr. Emmanuel Gay, the hospital’s chief neurosurgeon, said a brain scan performed late Monday showed bruising a little bit everywhere in Schumacher’s brain – but also an unexpected easing of pressure.
But Gay and other doctors cautioned that Schumacher’s condition was still grave after the successful two-hour surgery to eliminate the largest and most accessible bruise.
We cannot say he is out of danger, said Dr. Jean-Francois Payen, head of the intensive care unit. Payen said neurological evaluation was out of the question for now.
Payen said that medical literature puts the recovery rate at 40 to 45 percent.
Schumacher was being kept artificially sedated and his body temperature was lowered to between 93.2 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit, to reduce swelling in the brain, reduce its energy consumption and allow it to rest.
Schumacher won a record 91 races and seven world titles before retiring from Formula One last year.
Sabine Kehm, Schumacher’s manager, offered more details on the accident.
It looks like probably that initiating a corner, he was hitting a stone which he had not seen and was catapulted down on a rock, Kehm said. That is extremely and very unfortunate ... really very, very bad luck. Michael was not at high speed.