Doctors say Otto Warmbier has 'extensive loss of brain tissue' on return from N. Korea


What You Need To Know: Otto Warmbier

3:19 p.m. update: Dr. Daniel Kanter of University of Cincinnati Health was among three physicians to give an update Thursday afternoon to Otto Warmbier’s medical condition since arriving in the U.S. 40 hours ago.

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Kanter said Warmbier has “no signs of understanding language, responding to verbal commands, or awareness of surroundings.”

Warmbier has undergone a full list of imaging and diagnostic tests. Kanter said doctors have very little information about Warmbier’s care in North Korea, except they did get access to images of his brain from April 2016.

“Based on the analysis, the brain injury occurred in the proceeding weeks,” Kanter said.

Kanter said Warmbier’s vital signs were stable upon arrival. His skin was in good condition and he was well nourished.

Kanter said that while Warmbier has spontaneous moments of eye opening, he has not spoken or made any purposeful movements.

An MRI of his brain revealed “extensive loss of brain tissue in all regions of the brain,” Kanter said, along with “profound weakness” in his leg and arm muscles. 

To the North Korean claim that Otto suffered from botulism, Dr. Brandon Foreman said all tests have found no evidence of active botulism.

Kanter said it’s impossible to know what caused Otto’s brain injury, but it’s consistent with a lack of oxygen to the brain for a period of time.

Kanter did say that Otto sustained no bone fractures. 

At the family’s wish, the physicians refrained from discussing what the future holds for Otto. 

Original story: Fred Warmbier, the father of freed North Korean prisoner Otto Warmbier, said Thursday that his son was “brutalized and terrorized” during his time in the Hermit Kingdom.

Fred Warmbier called the North Korean regime “a pariah” and “terroristic” while addressing the media for about 10 minutes Thursday. His wife, Cindy Warmbier, remained by her son’s side at a University of Cincinnati Health hospital.

Wearing the same coat as Otto did during his confession in North Korea, Fred Warmbier said it’s a “bittersweet feeling our family has” since Otto Warmbier’s return.

Otto Warmbier was serving a 15-year prison term with hard labor in North Korea.

Fred Warmbier said the family is happy Otto is back “in the arms of those who love him,” but angry that he was treated brutally.

Fred Warmbier said the family was only told a week ago that Otto Warmbier has been in a coma for the last year. 

“Otto is a fighter and we firmly believe he fought to stay alive through the worst,” Fred Warmbier said. “I was in shock.”

The Warmbier family does not believe North Korea’s story that “botulism and (a) sleeping pill” caused Otto Warmbier’s coma. Fred Warmbier said the country kept his son’s condition secret and “denied him top-notch care.”


Video: Facts about North Korea

Facts about North Korea

In its first official comment since Warmbier was returned home, North Korea said it released him for humanitarian reasons. The state-run Korean Central News Agency on Thursday said he had been sentenced to hard labor, but it did not comment on his medical condition.

A hospital official from UC Health said three doctors will share an update on Otto Warmbier’s medical condition later Thursday. He is in stable condition, but suffered a severe neurological injury, the official said.

Fred Warmbier said he received a call from President Donald Trump Wednesday evening about the effort to get Otto home.

A former teacher of Otto also spoke, stating that Otto had “thrived” in high school.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



Otto Warmbier

Kim Kwang Hyon/AP
In this Feb. 29, 2016 file photo, American student Otto Warmbier speaks to reporters in Pyongyang, North Korea. Secretary of State Tillerson said Tuesday, June 13, 2017, that North Korea released the jailed U.S. university student (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon, File)

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