Jerusalem Doctors removed nearly 2 feet of Ariel Sharon's large intestines Saturday during emergency surgery, his seventh operation since suffering a debilitating stroke last month.
Surgeons managed to stabilize the comatose Israeli prime minister after initially fearing for his life, but the latest complication makes it even more unlikely he will recover.
Israelis closely followed their 77-year-old leader's latest ordeal, with TV stations repeatedly breaking into regular programming for updates, but the country already has come to terms with his departure from politics.
Sharon was rushed to surgery Saturday morning after doctors, who had noticed abdominal swelling, conducted a CT scan and a laparoscopy, or insertion of a small camera through the abdominal wall.
Surgeons detected necrotic - or dead - tissue in the bowels and removed 20 inches of his large intestine, said Hadassah Hospital director Dr. Shlomo Mor-Yosef.
The necrosis was caused either by infection or a drop in the blood supply to the intestines, something common in comatose patients, the hospital director said. Mor-Yosef said doctors did not find blocked blood vessels.
Mor-Yosef said Saturday's surgery was relatively simple, and Sharon's main problem continues to be the coma. When asked if Sharon could come out of the coma, he said, "All possibilities remain open, but with each passing day, the chances are lower."
Since the stroke, Sharon has been hooked up to feeding and breathing tubes.