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May 21, 8:50 AM EDT

Doctors drain fluids from Thai king's brain, spinal cord

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AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit

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BANGKOK (AP) -- Doctors in Thailand have operated on 88-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest-reigning monarch, to remove excess fluid that was putting pressure on his brain and spinal cord.

The doctors used a tube previously placed in the king's abdomen to drain the fluids in a 75-minute procedure Friday evening, according to a statement issued by the Royal Household Bureau. The statement described the result as satisfactory, and said the doctors advised drainage on the basis of an X-ray taken after they observed muscle spasms on the king's face.

Bhumibol, who has been on the throne since 1946, has been hospitalized for much of the past decade with a stroke and other ailments, more or less withdrawing from public life. He has used a wheelchair on his rare forays out of his suite at Bangkok's Siriraj Hospital, and recent television video did not show him speaking. He last left the hospital in January, for a brief private visit to his Bangkok palace.

The king's health is a matter of deep public concern because of uncertainty about how smoothly a succession to his 63-year-old son Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn can be managed.

Last August, Bhumibol was treated for the same illness, sometimes called "water on the brain." It was reported then that his condition had stabilized.

Friday's statement indicated that the king had been diagnosed with the condition on May 2. However, a health bulletin from the palace on May 14 mentioned only other ailments, including fever, an infection of his right lung and an inflamed knee. It indicated that several symptoms were easing in response to treatment.

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