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Ashcroft remains in intensive care

Continues recovery from gallbladder surgery

From Terry Frieden
CNN Washington Bureau

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EXPLAINER
Interactive: How gallstones cause pancreatitis
ABOUT PANCREATITIS
  • Pancreatitis often is caused by gallstones leaving the gallbladder and lodging near the pancreatic duct, obstructing the duct.
  • Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, high fever, difficulty breathing and abdominal bruises from internal bleeding.

    Source: MayoClinic.com
  • HEALTH LIBRARY
    Mayo Clinic
    YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS
    John Ashcroft
    Justice Department

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Attorney General John Ashcroft remained in intensive care Thursday, and aides said he was gradually recovering from gall bladder surgery performed two days ago.

    Physicians at George Washington Medical Center have given no indication when Ashcroft, 61, will be able to go home, but aides said he was not expected to return to work next week.

    No appointments are being made for the attorney general for at least the next couple of weeks.

    The hospital did not issue a promised formal medical update, but Ashcroft's chief spokesman Mark Corallo said the nation's top legal officer was making progress.

    "He's continuing to recover. He's still in ICU, but he's making good progress," Corallo said.

    Ashcroft's planned appearance before appropriations committees of the House and Senate have not been re-scheduled, Justice Department officials said.

    Ashcroft is being monitored by his surgeon Dr. Bruce Abell, who performed a cholecystectomy to remove his gallbladder Tuesday. Ashcroft entered the hospital last Thursday night with acute gallstone pancreatitis.

    Gallstone pancreatitis is a condition in which a gallstone blocks a duct of the pancreas, a gland that produces enzymes that aid in the digestion of food.

    With the enzymes trapped inside the pancreas, the gland becomes inflamed, causing excruciating pain.

    Bile -- produced in the liver -- is stored in the gallbladder and aids in the digestion of fats in the small intestine. Gallstones are composed of cholesterol and bile salts.

    Abell said Ashcroft's surgery was performed as a preventive measure to reduce the risk of recurrent pancreatitis. The surgeon said the procedure was done laparoscopically and that "everything went as planned".

    Like all people who have had their gallbladders removed, Ashcroft will have to limit his intake of fatty foods, Abell said. The surgeon said the removal of the gallbladder will ensure the condition does not recur.

    The surgeon said it is common for patients to remain hospitalized four or five days for observation.


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