Western experts to aid Yeltsin doctors

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The Independent Online
Moscow (Reuter) - The Kremlin is bringing in leading Western heart specialists to advise Russian doctors preparing for President Boris Yeltsin's bypass operation.

The presidential press office said in a statement yesterday that two German cardiologists - offered by Chancellor Helmut Kohl - would join the Russian team of experts.

The German government named the two as Axel Haverich, director of a clinic for heart surgery at Hanover's Medical Technical College, and Thorsten Wahlers, who also worked there.

The Russian media said on Thursday that the pioneering American heart surgeon, Michael DeBakey, would join the team. Mr DeBakey, of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, said he had not been approached, but would be happy to help if asked to do so.

The specialists will decide in around two weeks when to operate on Mr Yeltsin, who was re-elected for a second four-year term in July.

Doctors have said that he needs a relatively simple bypass, in which a vein or artery is removed from one part of the body and grafted into the heart area to improve the flow of blood.

Mr Yeltsin, 65, had two heart attacks last year. He broke a long Kremlin tradition of secrecy on medical issues early this month when he said he would have an operation.

Mr DeBakey, 88, is perhaps the world's most famous heart surgeon and a pioneer in the development of the artificial heart.

Rinat Akchurin has been touted as the Russian surgeon most likely to do Mr Yeltsin's operation. In 1992, he performed a bypass on the Prime Minister, Victor Chernomyrdin and trained with Mr DeBakey.