Ageing rock wild man Keith Richards is understood to have had surgery for a blood clot on his brain and doctors were worried he would not survive.
The Herald understands the 62-year-old's condition was much more serious than previously reported and he remains in New Zealand while the rest of the Rolling Stones are gathered in Europe for the next leg of the band's world tour.
The operation was for a subdural haematoma, a blood clot that forms in the outer membranes of the brain, often from a torn vein. It can be caused by a fall or other head injury.
The operation on the famed guitarist was done soon after he arrived in New Zealand from Fiji, according to a source.
His condition was described at the time as a mild concussion.
Earlier reports that Richards had suffered a brain haemorrhage were denied by his New York-based publicist, Fran Curtis. She said over the weekend that he was in "good spirits" and was adamant he would join the rest of the band in Barcelona for the kick-off of the 35-gig tour as scheduled on May 27. She did not know when he would be leaving New Zealand.
Richards was thought to have tumbled out of a coconut tree at the exclusive Wakaya Club resort in Fiji on April 27.
Yesterday, the New Zealand-based publicist for the Stones' April tour said she had no news on Richards' condition and had had no update from New York.
A spokesman for Auckland's Ascot Hospital said early last week that the guitarist had been discharged after being monitored but would not say whether he had had surgery. A duty manager at the hospital said yesterday she could give no information.