GRENOBLE, France — Michael Schumacher’s condition has slightly improved but remains critical after he underwent another operation overnight to further reduce pressure on his brain, doctors said Tuesday.
“He is in a critical condition but it is not the same as yesterday,” Jean-Francois Payen, head of the intensive care unit at Grenoble’s university hospital, where the Formula One champion is being treated over injuries sustained in a ski accident, told a news conference.
“The situation is better controlled than yesterday. We can’t say he’s out of danger, but we now have a bit more time.”
Payen said “the hours to come are crucial for the outcome” and that Schumacher will remain in an induced coma as long as necessary.
“He’s in resuscitation and things change really quickly in a good way and a bad way. We’ve just gained a bit more time.”
Schumacher, who won a record seven F1 world titles and retired from the sport for a second time in 2012, fell and hit his head on a rock while skiing off-piste with his son at the Meribel resort Sunday.
He was transported by helicopter to a hospital in Moutiers before being transferred to a clinic in Grenoble where he underwent a first operation.
Doctors said Monday that he was in a critical condition, but Payen said that a window of opportunity opened later in the day to consider the second operation, which lasted around two hours and ended around midnight Monday.
“We had effectively at the end of the afternoon received a transitional improvement on the pressure on the brain. So there is no worsening of the initial lesions. In discussing this with my neurosurgeon colleagues, we decided that since there was an improvement, we should do the operation. We didn’t initially think we would do the operation,” he said.
“It was a relatively good result. So this morning we took some more pictures, some more scans, and we’ve noticed that we’ve evacuated the hematoma further. And so this gives us signs that we have a better controlled situation.”
Gerard Saillant, who operated on Schumacher for a broken leg after a crash at the 1999 British Grand Prix and came to Grenoble as “a friend,” said he still has other lesions on the brain that require full medical attention.
“The scans show there are other lessions on the brain, and these lesions need to be kept in check. We need to check on these every hour,” he said.
Saillant said that Schumacher’s family members, who have been by his side since Sunday, were constantly informed about their next steps and decisions.
The retired racer’s manager, Sabine Kehm, said Schumacher’s wife, Corinna; daughter, Gina-Maria; and son, Mick, were in shock.
“The family is not doing very well, obviously. They are shocked,” Kehm told reporters.
German newspaper Bild, meanwhile, reported that Schumacher’s helmet broke in his accident, quoting a rescuer as saying: “When we arrived at the scene of the accident, his helmet was split.”
Kehm dismissed suggestions that Schumacher had been skiing fast ahead of the accident. She told reporters he helped a friend who had fallen and then skied on, hitting a stone while attempting a turn, and then crashing head-on against a rock.
“He was hitting a stone which he had not seen and was catapulted down on a rock … Michael was not at high speed,” Kehm said, naming the incident “very unfortunate” and “very bad luck.”