Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore underwent brain surgery yesterday to drain excess fluid from his brain, the Baltimore Sun reported. He is said to be in good condition following the 90 minute surgery that occurred without complications.
"The cardinal is awake, a little groggy but in good form," said Bishop W. Francis Malooly at a news conference on Monday.
Keeler needed the surgery, the bishop said, because of an abnormal build up of cerebrospinal fluid on his brain. The excess fluid is thought to have been caused by head trauma that the cardinal suffered in an October car accident while he was vacationing in Terni, Italy. Also traveling with the Cardinal was his good friend, Father Bernard Quinn, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who was killed in the accident.
During the accident, Cardinal Keeler also suffered a broken ankle but has since recovered from the break through physical therapy. According to Bishop Malooly, Keeler was still having trouble walking. This led doctors to notice the build up of fluid and decide to perform surgery.
The operation involved the placement of a shunt, or tube, into the cardinal’s skull that will drain the excess fluid from his brain and into the abdominal cavity, where
the body can safely absorb it.
Keeler's physicians will check in about three weeks to make sure an appropriate amount of fluid is being released through the shunt.
Dr. Michael A. Williams, neurology director for the adult hydrocephalus program at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, said that if too much fluid is released through the shunt, the brain itself might get smaller, creating space between it and the inside of the skull. Consequently, doctors may be adjusting the flow of the fluid through the shunt.
Keeler is still hoping to attend the ordinations of four new priests for the Archdiocese Of Baltimore on Saturday, if his condition permits, though Bishop Malooly will perform the ordinations. "He does bounce back quickly, though - that's his track record," Malooly said.
At 76, Keeler is the average age for diagnosis for normal pressure hydrocephalus, according to medical experts. The cardinal has served as the Archbishop of Baltimore since 1989 and was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1994.
When Keeler turned 75 last year, he submitted a letter of resignation to the Vatican as required by canon law. But Pope Benedict XVI has not accepted Keeler's retirement or indicated when a replacement might be named.