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Milan striker Cassano diagnosed with heart defect

AC Milan and Italy striker Antonio Cassano has been sent for a minor cardiac operation after suffering an ischemic stroke on Saturday, and is unlikely to play again for several months.

Antonio Cassano will undergo surgery to resolve a heart problem
Antonio Cassano will undergo surgery to resolve a heart problem ©Getty Images

AC Milan have announced that forward Antonio Cassano will undergo a "small heart operation" to resolve the problem that caused him to suffer an ischemic stroke on Saturday.

The Bari-born player was hospitalised immediately after his team returned from their 3-2 win at AS Roma, with the 29-year-old struggling to talk or stand still. The Italian international underwent several tests in the following 72 hours and the cause of the stroke was identified as an atrial septal defect – a congentital heart problem which means the septum, the muscular wall separating the heart's left and right ventricles, does not close properly.

"In the next few days, the player will undergo a small heart operation to close the septum," reads a Milan statement. "The ischemic stroke was dealt with in time and has not caused any permanent brain damage. It will not be possible to say how long Cassano will be sidelined for until after the surgery. However it will be some months before he can resume playing."

Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani suggested there was "no risk to his career" and predicted that Cassano would be absent for four to six months. The Rossoneri booked a place in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 yesterday with a 1-1 draw at FC BATE Borisiov.