In a statement released by the Pentagon on Tuesday from his doctors, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was hospitalized to treat an infection that was related to earlier surgery for prostate cancer. The statement from officials at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center provides new details about Austin’s hospitalization, after controversy arose over the Pentagon’s failure to notify the White House and Congress about his condition for several days.
According to the officials, the prostate cancer was detected early last month and Austin underwent a “minimally invasive procedure” on Dec. 22 to treat and cure the cancer. The statement added that Austin was placed under general anesthesia and “recovered uneventfully”, and that the cancer “was detected early, and his prognosis is excellent.” The statement went on to say that while at home on Jan. 1, Austin began experiencing “nausea with severe abdominal, hip, and leg pain” and was readmitted to Walter Reed, where he was found to have a urinary tract infection and was transferred to the ICU the next day. Further testing revealed abdominal fluid that was obstructing his small intestine, and doctors placed a tube through his nose to drain his stomach. Austin’s doctor said that “he has progressed steadily throughout his stay. His infection has cleared. He continues to make progress and we anticipate a full recovery although this can be a slow process. During this stay, Secretary Austin never lost consciousness and never underwent general anesthesia.”
Controversy arose after the Pentagon did not tell the White House, lawmakers or Austin’s second in command about his Jan. 1 hospitalization for several days. According to Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder, several Pentagon officials, including Austin’s chief of staff and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, learned Austin had been hospitalized the next day, on Jan. 2. Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks assumed some of Austin’s duties that day but was not told that he was hospitalized until Jan. 4, when she was in Puerto Rico.
Ryder said Monday that the delay in notifying officials was partly due to Austin’s chief of staff being sick with the flu: “I’m offering you the facts as we have them, in terms of an explanation of how this happened and also the fact that we will review our procedures and look at how we can do better in the future.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a press briefing on Tuesday that President Biden has full confidence in Austin, and that Mr. Biden learned of Austin’s prostate cancer diagnosis on Tuesday morning.
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