First lady Melania Trump, 48, underwent an embolization procedure Monday morning at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to treat a benign kidney condition, according to a statement issued by the White House. The procedure was successful with no complications. Trump will likely remain in the hospital for the duration of the week, the statement said.
The White House did not elaborate on the condition or the procedure.
“When I hear benign kidney condition, most of the time, you’re thinking a cyst and a cyst is basically a fluid-filled structure that can sometimes develop on top of the kidney, or within the kidney,” CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said. “It’s not something that typically gets embolized. Was there a cyst and something else associated with that cyst? What is it … is the question.”
Embolization “cuts off the blood supply to a certain part of the body,” according to the National Institutes of Health.
“There are certain benign tumors that may be treated this way. These are the kind of tumors, you worry they could bleed because they have a lot of blood vessels in them. One of the ways to treat them is to embolize them, to block the blood flow to that part of the kidney,” Gupta said.
Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt, urologist at Orlando Health in Florida, said, the most common condition he would use an embolization procedure for would be “something called angiomyolipoma, which is basically a benign growth of the kidney that has some fat in it and some cystic components.”
“These are usually benign but if they grow they can cause bleeding around the kidney, they can cause bleeding in the urine, they can cause pain as well,” said Brahmbhatt.
Angiomyolipoma is an uncommon condition, still only in very rare cases would something be discovered during the procedure itself where a patient might need “something further done,” said Brahmbatt.
Sometimes embolizations can be done on an out-patient basis, he said, but sometimes they admit the patient overnight just to keep track of the kidney function and to make sure there’s no excessive pain.
It’s always safe to monitor patients afterwards “and make sure what you wanted to embolize was embolized,” said Brahmbatt. One reason the hospital may be keeping the first lady for a few days is “the full lesion may not have been completely embolized and sometimes you need it done again.” Or there could be “bleeding around the kidney or bleeding where you actually go through and get into your blood vessels,” he said.
Overall, said Brahmbatt, an embolization is “a fairly low risk procedure” though the biggest risk would be to over-embolize. In that case, other parts of the kidney would be affected “and so you may lose some of the functioning to that part of the kidney.”
Gupta said, ” ‘Benign (kidney) condition’ is all we know. Typically, most people would think it was a cyst. This no longer sounds like a cyst because of the way it was treated and how long her recovery is going to be.”
People typically have two kidneys, each about the size of a fist. The organs filter a person’s blood — about 200 quarts of it each day — converting waste products into urine, which then flows out of the body through the bladder. Even with just one kidney, many people live normal healthy lives. A person with only one kidney, though, may experience a slight loss of function over a long period.