Second surgery not hurting Kirk's prognosis, doctor says

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk underwent surgery for the second time late Wednesday to continue efforts to relieve pressure from swelling in his brain after a stroke, his doctor said Thursday.

“The procedure, which removed two small pieces of tissue previously destroyed and rendered nonfunctional by the senator's stroke, was completed successfully and without complication,” Dr. Richard Fessler, a surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said in a statement.

He called it “a common surgical procedure to create more space around the senator's brain in order to accommodate the expected peaking of swelling.”

“The procedure is unlikely to have any impact on his physical or neurological prognosis,” Fessler added.

Kirk, 52, first had surgery Sunday after suffering from a stroke. Doctors temporarily removed a 4- by 8-inch section of his skull to relieve pressure on his brain caused by swelling.

After that procedure, Fessler said he expected Kirk to continue to have problems with movement in his left arm and leg, but said the Highland Park Republican was likely to make a full recovery mentally.

“Sen. Kirk continues to progress as expected and remains in serious but stable condition this morning with no change in his neurological or physical prognosis,” Fessler said Thursday.

Dr. Kevin Jackson, director of trauma neurosurgery at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, said surgery to remove part of a patient's skull, then tissue from his brain, are potentially lifesaving procedures taken when doctors can't otherwise stop swelling in the brain.

“The fact that he needed these two surgeries showed this situation is extremely critical,” Jackson said.

He said it's hard to tell if Kirk's most recent surgery could prolong his recovery.

“His recovery was going to be prolonged anyway,” Jackson said.

“Being young and healthy definitely works in his favor,” he added.

Kirk, a Naval Reserve officer and former 10th District congressman, suffered the stroke as a result of a carotid artery dissection in the right side of his neck, in which a flap of tissue blocked the flow of blood in the carotid artery to the brain.

“It's not a typical case,” Jackson said. “What caused all of this is kind of perplexing.”

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