There have been wildly conflicting reports about the health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, but a top kidney specialist says there could be a medical explanation for dramatic swings in his condition.
Chavez, who had a tumor removed in June, was reported to have been taken to a military hospital in Caracas earlier this week in grave condition from kidney failure. But on Thursday he appeared at a press conference vehemently denying he was seriously ill. To prove his point, he energetically tossed a softball with government ministers.
Dr. Rute Paixao, a staff nephrologist at the Cleveland Clinic Florida in Weston, Fla., told Newsmax Thursday that it’s not uncommon for cancer patients to experience kidney failure. And, if Chavez were undergoing dialysis, he could appear gravely ill before the treatments and then afterwards appear in good health.
Kidney dialysis is an artificial process that rids the body of toxins, which is what healthy kidneys do naturally.
The 56-year-old Chavez underwent cancer surgery in Havana in June, a report that Dr. Paixao said she finds very telling. The surgery was reportedly to his pelvic region and speculation has been that he had colon cancer.
According to Dr. Paixao, cancer patients can develop kidney failure because of the spread of the cancer or because of the chemotherapy drugs used to treat it.
Whether or not he will recover depends on the cause of his kidney problems.
If his cancer has spread to his kidneys, then the prognosis is not good, she said. Dialysis may prolong his life, but likely will not affect the ultimate outcome.
Under these circumstances, “people think going on dialysis is a good thing, but it’s really only a Band-Aid,” said Dr. Paixao.
On the other hand, if kidney failure was caused by chemotherapy, his kidneys may regain function after chemo treatments are ended. “I see this all the time,” said Dr. Paixao.
Chavez, who has been in power since 1999 and plans to run for a fourth term in 2012, has urged Venezuelans to pay no attention to rumors about his poor health.
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