President Trump says Melania had a '4-hour operation' and 'can't fly for one month' — is that normal?

Elise Solé

President Trump is sharing new information about his wife Melania’s health, implying that her kidney condition may have been more serious than previously reported.

“Can’t fly for one month, the doctors say,” the president said Friday. “She had a big operation, that was close to a four-hour operation. And she’s doing great.”

As CNN reported, the word operation had been omitted from the official White House statement released in May, which read: “This morning, First Lady Melania Trump underwent an embolization procedure to treat a benign kidney condition. The procedure was successful and there were no complications. Mrs. Trump is at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and will likely remain there for the duration of the week. The First Lady looks forward to a full recovery so she can continue her work on behalf of children everywhere.”

Since then the president had referred to Melania as “feeling and doing really well” and having gone “through a little rough patch.”

Following about a month of over-the-top rumors (she had her last public appearance on May 10 and underwent the procedure on May 14), the first lady emerged on Wednesday to attend a meeting at the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington, D.C., wearing a khaki-colored shirtdress and a pair of stilettos. 

President Trump has offered new details about first lady Melania’s kidney procedure. (Photo: Getty Images)

“I’d like to pay some respects to some of the people here today. I have a list. Of course, we have to start with our great first lady, Melania,” said the POTUS, sitting next to his wife. “Thank you, Melania. She’s doing great. She went through a little rough patch, but she’s doing great and we’re very proud of her. She’s done a fantastic job as first lady.”

He added: “The people love you. The people of our country love you. So, thank you, honey.”

The president’s latest details have stoked both concern and skepticism regarding Melania’s well-being. Here’s what may be going on.

First, let’s rehash: Embolizations are quick, noninvasive procedures.

The technique is performed under twilight sedation (an anesthetic that leaves people completely relaxed, without knocking them out, and temporarily unable to recall memories) and takes anywhere from one hour to two hours. Melania’s specific condition is unknown, but the most common benign kidney condition that requires embolizations are angiomyolipomas (AML), benign tumors of the kidney.

Patients usually discover they have AML through blood in the urine, experiencing flank pain [in the abdomen or surrounding area], or wellness scans,” Kelvin Hong, MD, division director of interventional radiology at Johns Hopkins, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “These tumors have potential to grow or bleed and rupture, so they’re unsafe to ignore.”

In the past, doctors would remove the kidney or the growth. However, now embolization procedures, which require only small incisions, simply cut blood supply to the area, killing the tumors during surgery, says Hong.

4-hour-long embolization procedures are extremely rare.

That said, if Melania experienced complications, such as bleeding or infection, or if she had a form of cancer that doctors had previously overlooked, the procedure could take longer. But the latter situation would be almost unheard-of and beg “scientific articles to be written,” says Hong. 

“Context is important here — sometimes family members misjudge the length of a procedure, if they recall it from the moment they said goodbye to their loved one as they’re wheeled away, or include any recovery time into their memories,” says Hong. “Especially if they’re sitting there, waiting for the patient to be released.” 

Melania’s recovery time is long. 

“We send embolization patients home that same day, and if there’s a complication, we would keep them overnight. They can usually return to work after a week,” says Hong. “Melania may just be extra cautious with her health or is given certain VIP treatment.”

Banning a patient from flying for one month postprocedure is not typical medical advice.

“Based on what we know of Melania’s condition, it seems unusual to suggest there is a medical reason she can’t fly after an embolization procedure,” says Hong. “If there was a complication, that may be appropriate advice, but if the procedure was as routine as described, not being allowed to fly is unordinary.”

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