However, Sharon's failure to regain consciousness is causing increasing concern.

The surgery on Sunday evening took less than an hour and followed a CT scan that showed no changes in his brain.

Though Sharon was taken off sedatives on Saturday, he had not regained consciousness more than a day later. The hospital continued to describe his condition as critical but stable.
 
His stand-in, Ehud Olmert, the acting prime minister, will remain in his post until Israel's election on 28 March, according to a ruling Sunday by Meni Mazuz, the government's attorney-general.

Permanently incapacitated?

Mazuz sidestepped a ruling that Sharon would be permanently incapacitated, requiring the cabinet to name a replacement.

Sharon's brain damage could be
as serious as previously thought

Sharon had to undergo the tracheotomy procedure to insert a plastic tube in his windpipe because the former tube to a respirator would have started to cause damage if it remained in place, said Dr Philip Stieg, chair of neurosurgery at the Weill-Cornell Medical College in New York.
 
Sharon's comatose state and the fact that he was undergoing the tracheotomy do not bode well for the prime minister's future, Stieg said.

It is becoming more probable as time passes that Sharon will either remain in a vegetative state or have low cognitive abilities, he said.
 
"It suggests that the brain damage is as serious as we thought it was based on earlier reports and now its all playing out," Stieg said. "He's not turning the corner, he's not waking up ... they're having to do more things to keep him alive."