Sen. Ted Kennedy recovering after seizure |

Sen. Ted Kennedy recovering after seizure

BOSTON ” Doctors were working Sunday to determine the cause of a seizure that sent Sen. Edward M. Kennedy to the hospital and prompted an outpouring of support for the liberal political icon.

The 76-year-old Massachusetts Democrat spent a peaceful night at Massachusetts General Hospital, a top aide said, and few details of his condition were expected before a battery of tests was completed by Monday at the earliest.

“Sen. Kennedy had a good night’s sleep and we expect today to be a very quiet day,” said the aide, who requested anonymity because of hospital practices concerning the privacy of patient information.

The lone surviving son in a famed political family was flown Saturday morning to Massachusetts General after becoming ill and being treated at the emergency room of Cape Cod Hospital.

His physician said he did not suffer a stroke, as was first suspected, and he recovered enough by Saturday afternoon to watch a Boston Red Sox game on television and eat takeout food from the city’s famed Legal Sea Foods. His wife, Vicki, his five children and stepchildren and his niece, Caroline Kennedy, were among those to visit him.

“Over the next couple of days, Senator Kennedy will undergo further evaluation to determine the cause of the seizure, and a course of treatment will be determined at that time,” said Dr. Larry Ronan, who added Kennedy was “not in any immediate danger.”

In October, Kennedy had surgery to remove a blockage in his left carotid artery ” a main supplier of blood to the face and brain. This type of operation is performed on more than 180,000 people a year to prevent a stroke. The blockage was discovered during a routine exam.

The doctor who operated on Kennedy said at the time that surgery is reserved for those with more than 70 percent blockage, and Kennedy had “a very high-grade blockage.”

Distinguishing between a seizure and a transient ischemic attack, TIA, often called a mini-stroke, can sometimes be difficult.

Seizures are little electrical storms in the brain. They tend to be brief; an occasional one can happen to anyone even without a prior history of seizures, especially if there has been some prior brain trauma.

A stroke is either ischemic ” a clog in a blood vessel ” or hemorrhagic, bleeding in the brain. Kennedy had the carotid artery surgery to try to prevent the ischemic type.

A stroke kills brain tissue; how much depends on how big it is and how long it lasts.

“Sen. Kennedy was at high risk because he had surgery for an artery in his neck,” said Dr. Wendy Wright, an assistant professor at The Emory Clinic, Departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery.

But she said there are a lot of things that can cause seizures, such as an infection or medication.

“Certain medications are known to cause seizures. A stroke can cause a seizure, a brain tumor or a head injury, or something in the brain itself,” Wright said. “Common symptoms that we know about are falling on the ground, shaking and having confusion.”

Kennedy, the second-longest serving member of the Senate and a dominant figure in national Democratic Party politics, was elected in 1962, filling out the term won by his brother, John F. Kennedy, who was elected president in 1960.

His eldest brother, Joseph, was killed in a World War II airplane crash, while President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. A third brother, Robert, was assassinated amid a presidential campaign in 1968.

Kennedy is active for his age, maintaining an aggressive schedule on Capitol Hill and across Massachusetts.

He has been vocal in both his opposition to the Iraq war and support for Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama, who is trying to become the first senator elected to the White House since John F. Kennedy.

Kennedy made several campaign appearances for the Illinois senator in February, and most recently another in April.

Last week, he and Caroline Kennedy awarded the annual “Profiles in Courage” award commemorating President Kennedy. And Friday, he attended a ribbon cutting at the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park.

He was preparing to host the annual Best Buddies Challenge event on Saturday afternoon, a fundraiser for the Best Buddies organization founded by Anthony Kennedy Shriver that helps people with intellectual disabilities.

The event attracted celebrities, including New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Olympian Carl Lewis.

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