King forward Tony Granato underwent surgery Wednesday to remove a blood clot from his brain. The four-hour procedure, performed at UCLA Medical Center, was termed a success although little information about Granato's condition was available Wednesday night. The delicate surgery was performed by Dr. Neil Martin, who removed the clot from Granato's left temporal lobe, where it had been causing pressure and bleeding and such symptoms as memory loss and severe headaches.
The Kings announced that Granato was resting and in stable condition. The clot, known as an intracerebral hematoma, was formed inside brain tissue and is more difficult to remove than clots that sit on top of the brain and don't involve brain tissue.
The prospects for Granato to return for the last two months of the season are minimal. In fact, the probability of his return to hockey at all is low.
Said King team physician Ron Kvitne: "Depending on the findings at time of surgery, combined with the [cause] . . . I don't have any history of anyone having neurosurgery who is playing [hockey]. This is new ground being broken."
Martin was not available for comment.
It is still not known if the clot was the result of a hard hit Granato suffered in a game on Jan. 25 that sent him headfirst into the boards. Granato, 31, seemed fine after the game and even played again two days later. But, after attending a Super Bowl party at teammate Wayne Gretzky's house, Granato awoke early the next morning with severe pain. He checked himself into Centinela Hospital Medical Center and stayed there a week while undergoing tests.
The tests revealed pressure on his brain but little else and Granato was released. Granato, who is on the injured reserve list, remained at home last week and was reexamined Monday.
Kvitne said Wednesday night that doctors won't know until test results come back whether the clot was the result of bleeding caused by the hit in the Hartford game or from a congenital weakness in a blood vessel in his brain.
Martin, a neurovascular specialist, was quoted in a news release as saying the surgery went well.
According to Dr. Don Johns, a neurologist at the Harvard Medical School, Granato likely underwent a procedure called open skull craniotomy. Either a single hole, the size of a quarter, is drilled though the skull, or a small flap is cut for the surgical team to work. In Granato's case, if blood was found within brain tissue, the surgeon would have had to remove the tissue, Johns said.
"It's an important area for speech and memory," Johns said of the left side of the brain. "There can be permanent damage, but in most cases symptoms are reversable."
Heading into Wednesday night's game he was the third-leading scorer, with 17 goals and 35 points in 49 games. With the Kings since 1989, Granato is the sort of veteran his struggling team misses most.
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