May 15, 2018 -- First Lady Melania Trump remains hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after having what White House officials said was a successful procedure Monday to treat a benign kidney condition.
Trump, 48, had what is known as an arterial embolization, according to a statement from her office Monday. She had an unspecified problem with her kidney.
"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," the first lady's communications director, Stephanie Grisham, said in the statement.
"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."
Trump’s surgery marked the first time a first lady had a serious medical procedure while in the White House since Nancy Reagan had a mastectomy in October 1987. Rosalynn Carter also had surgery to remove a benign lump from her breast in April 1977. Weeks after Betty Ford became first lady, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy in September 1974.
President Donald Trump took a helicopter to Walter Reed to visit his wife before and after the surgery and tweeted that she was in "good spirits" and that it was a "successful procedure."
The White House did not elaborate on what specific condition made surgery necessary. Although arterial embolization can treat a kidney tumor, medical specialists say it can also be used in cases of a benign abnormal growth, a cyst, or fibroid.
Embolizations are generally used to cut off the supply of blood to a tumor or growth to shrink it.
Elizabeth Kavaler, MD, a urology specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said the most likely explanation for the first lady’s procedure is a non-cancerous tumor called an angiomyolipoma, or possibly an arteriovenous malformation, which is very rare tangle of blood vessels in the kidney.
Such conditions are rare and tend to happen in middle-aged women, experts say. If they become large enough, they can cause bleeding problems.
“Embolization is the procedure of choice for a benign finding in the kidney that needs intervention,” Kavaler said. “Most benign findings in the kidney do not need intervention. The need for intervention, namely embolization, is based on two things: One, the size of the growth, and two, the development of symptoms that are directly attributable to the growth.”
Such benign tumors typically have no symptoms and are often found when people have medical scans for another reason. But sometimes they cause pain, a bump, or other symptoms.
Angiomyolipomas have become more commonly diagnosed in recent years as advances in ultrasound, CT scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and other imaging techniques have made them easier for specialists to identify.
Kavaler says all surgeries can have complications, but embolization is a low-risk procedure, and most patients recover without problems.
“Complications always need to be considered, but … I am sure that Mrs. Trump and her physicians weighed the risks, benefits, and alternatives of the embolization carefully before they decided to move forward,” she said.
Kavaler says angiomyolipomas are not very common, and though it’s possible for another to develop in another part of her kidney, it's “highly unlikely” that it would require more surgery.
“The prognosis is excellent; this is not a life-threatening condition,” she said. “Everyone recovers differently, so we cannot predict or judge the length of time to recovery. Sometimes, the embolization will cause pain. Surveillance of the lesion may require repeated radiographic studies. Ultimately, Mrs. Trump should return to her usual level of function with no physical consequences.”