President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s spokesman said the president had suffered a previously undisclosed “skull trauma” on 12 August, but provided no further details about the injury.
Spokesman Alfredo Scocc-imarro read a statement signed by the president’s doctors, which said a CAT scan of her brain after the injury in August found nothing wrong, and that afterward she suffered no symptoms.
But problems surfaced at the weekend after Ms Fernandez, 60, went to a hospital for checks on an irregular heartbeat.
Because she was suffering headaches, they looked at her skull again and found a subdural haematoma – bleeding between the brain and the skull.
The statement defined it as “chronic” and not “acute,” which suggests that it has been slowly building.
“The president had a cardiovascular study done in the Fundacion Favaloro [a medical institution] and given that she had head pain, they did neurological studies, diagnosing a ‘chronic subdural collection’ [bleeding on the brain], and they ordered her to rest for a month,” said the statement, which was signed by the president’s doctors.
The statement added that her doctors will keep close watch on how the bleeding develops using imaging technology.
Chronic subdural “collections” usually do not heal by themselves and often require surgery that involves drilling small holes in the skull to drain the liquid, relieving pressure and reducing or preventing brain damage.
During his televised announcement her spokesman did not address the question of whether Ms Fernandez will try to keep governing the country herself from the presidential residence, or formally take medical leave and hand the government over to vice-president Amado Boudou, who was flown back to Argentina from Brazil on Saturday night. It is a hard time for Ms Fernandez, a tireless campaigner, to take leave from Argentina’s political scene.
The injury was sustained just one day after primary elections in which her opponents made significant gains.
However, it is now unlikely that she will be able to campaign for her allies ahead of key congressional mid-term elections on 27 October that will determine whether the ruling Front for Victory party holds on to enough seats to enable her to continue ruling with virtually unchecked power.
Ms Fernandez was embroiled in a war of words earlier this year over the Falkland islands.
During a visit to the Vatican she asked the Pope to promote dialogue between her country and the UK.
Ms Fernandez said in March: “I asked for his intervention to avoid problems that could emerge from the militarisation of Great Britain in the south Atlantic.”
She said she had asked for Pope Francis’s intercession to “facilitate dialogue” with Britain over the islands. The request came just days after a referendum in the Falklands, which saw the islanders vote overwhelmingly in favour of remaining a UK overseas territory.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said he “respectfully” disagreed with the view expressed in the past by Pope Francis that the Falklands had been “usurped” by the UK.
Ms Fernandez, a centre-left Peronist, was first elected in 2007 and then returned to power in 2011.
In January of 2012, Fernandez had her thyroid gland removed fearing that it was cancerous, but tests later showed no presence of cancerous cells.
The president also suffers from chronic hypertension, and has periodically had to take several days rest.