CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Charlotte-born evangelist Billy Graham, 89, underwent a 28-minute operation Wednesday to update the valve for a shunt that regulates pressure in his brain, according to a statement from Mission Hospitals in Asheville, N.C.

“He was bright and alert and conscious immediately after the surgery and called me by name,” said Dr. Ralph Loomis.

At the hospital 20 minutes from Graham’s Montreat home, Loomis, an Asheville neurosurgeon, replaced the former valve with a new model – an “externally programmable computer valve” – that was not available at the time the shunt was implanted in 2000.

Graham, who has now been admitted to the Asheville hospital for the second time in less than a year, was listed in fair condition Wednesday evening.

The frail, elderly Graham is expected to remain in the hospital “for a minimum of several days” to allow for programming and regulating of the new valve.

According to Wednesday’s statement, a recent overall check-up at Mayo Clinic Jacksonville in Florida disclosed that the shunt system implanted eight years ago was no longer adequately controlling fluids in Graham’s brain.

In August 2007, Graham spent two weeks at Mission Hospitals after a bout of intestinal bleeding. During that stay, doctors cauterized the bleeding in his colon.

Wednesday’s surgery was described in the statement as an “elective procedure” that was completed “without incident.”

Graham suffers from hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid within the brain that can cause symptoms similar to Parkinson’s Disease. The shunt system drains excessive fluid from the brain through a small tube down the head and neck and into the abdominal cavity, where it is absorbed by the body.

The rate of flow is controlled by a valve implanted just under the scalp, the statement said.

Greeting Graham when he returned from surgery were son Franklin, who heads the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, as well as daughters Ruth and Anne Graham Lotz, an evangelist based in Raleigh.

(c) 2008, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.).

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


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AP-NY-02-13-08 1847EST

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