Donald Trump says a 'big operation' kept Melania Trump from G-7 and Singapore summit

US President Donald Trump said First Lady Melania Trump was staying in the White House on doctor's orders.
US President Donald Trump said First Lady Melania Trump was staying in the White House on doctor's orders. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - US President Donald Trump revealed new details on Friday (June 9) about the closely guarded medical condition of Melania Trump, the first lady, saying that she underwent a four-hour operation and that her recovery would keep her from travelling abroad with him.

In the weeks since aides said she underwent an procedure to treat a benign kidney condition, Melania Trump has directed her East Wing aides to release almost no information about her medical condition or explain why she was at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for five days.

Until Donald Trump stepped in front of the cameras as he departed on an international trip on Friday, there had been no leaks.

The president said that Melania Trump "wanted to go" with him to the Group of 7 summit meeting in Quebec, and then on to Singapore for a planned sit-down with Kim Jong Un, North Korea's leader.

But, the president said, she was staying in the White House on doctor's orders.

"She had a big operation," Trump said. "That was a close to a four-hour operation. And she's doing great."

Few details have emerged from the first lady's office.

On May 14, the East Wing said Melania Trump underwent an embolisation procedure, which is meant to cut off the blood supply that feeds the kidney. It is usually used to stop bleeding from a benign tumour or a small aneurysm, or to reverse the growth of such a tumour, according to specialists.

The White House did not explain what led Melania Trump to seek treatment or whether the "benign kidney condition" meant she had a benign tumour or something else. In a statement, the East Wing said the procedure had been successful, with no complications.

In the hours afterward, aides wore scrubs around the first lady, a precaution that specialists said would be unnecessary for an embolisation procedure.

Presented with the president's timeline for Melania Trump's surgery, Stephanie Grisham, the first lady's communications director, reiterated that the first lady's embolisation procedure had been successful.

"The statement I put out on May 14 was correct," Grisham wrote in an e-mail on Friday. "Mrs Trump had a successful embolisation procedure. She cannot travel internationally yet, and is doing great."

When asked if the embolisation was the only procedure performed that day, Grisham said that it was. She later added that it was the only procedure done for Melania Trump's "entire stay" at the hospital.

The president previously has provided details to the public about his wife's medical procedure that turned out to be incorrect. After the procedure, Donald Trump told the public that his wife would be home from the hospital in two to three days; she ended up staying for five.

The details given by the president on Friday also do not match up with the surgical or recovery timeline for a typical embolisation procedure with no complications, according to experts.

Dr Kelvin Hong, the director of the Johns Hopkins Interventional Radiology Center, said a four-hour operation to treat the condition described by the White House would be unusual.

"I think the range from one to two hours would be much more likely," Hong said.

But, he added, the president could have been taking into account pre-surgery preparation time and any post-operation treatment, in addition to the embolisation itself.

"There's no question that family members can sometimes feel as if the procedure is something of that magnitude," Hong said, "from the time the patient departs the pre-procedure area until the time they see the patient again."