Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman, who survived a stroke last May, was hospitalized Wednesday after he began feeling lightheaded, according to a statement from his office. He was still being monitored Thursday evening, but his spokesperson said doctors have determined he did not suffer another stroke.
“According to John’s doctors at The George Washington University Hospital, the results of the MRI, along with the results of all of the other tests the doctors ran, rule out a new stroke,” Fetterman’s communications director Joe Calvello said in a statement. “John is being monitored with an EEG for signs of seizure – so far there are no signs of seizure, but he is still being monitored.”
The cause of the Senator’s symptoms is still unknown, and could indicate minor issues or something more serious, experts say. Fetterman’s health is of particular significance because his stroke recovery became a major issue on the campaign trail last year. Republicans slammed his halting debate performance and raised questions about his fitness to serve in the Senate. Since arriving in D.C last month, Fetterman has used new closed captioning technology that helps him understand others’ speech while he experiences lingering auditory processing issues. In late January, Fetterman’s Democratic Senate colleagues told TIME he seemed up to the job and that his health appeared to be improving each month.
Read More: Exclusive: John Fetterman Is Using This Assistive Technology in the Senate to Help With His Stroke Recovery
According to Harvard Health, lightheadedness can have a wide variety of causes, ranging from low blood sugar, low blood pressure, or dehydration to heart attack and stroke.
Dr. Kevin Sheth, the founding chief of the Division of Neurocritical Care and Emergency Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine says that lightheadedness alone is not necessarily cause for concern and could be linked to chronic cardiac issues that do not pose an immediate threat to a patient’s life or ability to function. Fetterman was diagnosed in 2017 with atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm, a condition he revealed publicly last year.
In order to understand the seriousness of Fetterman’s current condition, Sheth says, the public would need to know more about the symptoms he is experiencing. “It’s really on a wide range of either concerning to much less concerning,” Sheth says. “Least concerning would be just lightheadedness by itself, that is transient and has resolved. More concerning would be signs and symptoms of stroke: speech changes, weakness in arm or leg, vertigo, things like that.”
According to Mitchell Elkind, the American Heart Association’s chief clinical science officer, new lightheadedness is not likely to be a result of Fetterman’s previous stroke. “As a physician caring for stroke patients, it’s not a particularly worrying sign,” Elkind says. “Lightheadedness is one of the most common reasons people are seen in emergency rooms and hospitals.”
Elkind says the tests and evaluations in the hospital may take some days to return results. But “lots of people have lightheadedness and no significant cause is found,” he says, “and they go about their normal daily lives afterwards.”
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