Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin‘s recent hospitalisation came after he experienced complications from surgery to treat prostate cancer, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.
In a statement, DrJohn Maddox and Dr Gregory Chestnut — the emergency department director and urologic oncologist overseeing Mr Austin’s care — said the retired four-star US Army general was diagnosed with prostate cancer after laboratory tests in early 2023
The physicians said Mr Austin underwent a “minimally invasive medical procedure to treat and cure prostate cancer” on 22 December, during which he was under general anaesthesia.
“Secretary Austin recovered uneventfully from his surgery and returned home the next morning. His prostate cancer was detected early, his prognosis is excellent,” they said, adding that Mr Austin’s re-admission to Walter Reed on 1 January came after he experienced “complications from the December 22 procedure, including nausea with severe abdominal, hip, and leg pain” which was found to stem from a urinary tract infection.
“On January 2, the decision was made to transfer him to the ICU for close monitoring and a higher level of care. Further evaluation revealed abdominal fluid collections impairing the function of his small intestines,” they said, including “backup of intestinal contents, which were drained”.
“He has shown improvement and continues to make progress. We anticipate a full recovery, though this can be a slow process,” they added.
The physicians also said Mr Austin “never lost consciousness and never underwent general anesthesia” after his admission to Walter Reed last week.
The announcement in the form of the statement from Mr Austin’s physicians, which was read aloud by the Pentagon Press Secretary, US Air Force General Pat Ryder, was the first information provided to the public about Mr Austin’s condition and comes as the administration has been facing questions regarding why both President Joe Biden and Mr Austin’s own deputy were unaware of his recent hospitalisation for several days.
Pentagon officials further said that Mr Austin did not undergo general anasthaesia during the procedure for which he was hospitalised on 1 January and received the following day. His duties were performed by deputy secretary Kathleen Hicks, who like Mr Biden reportedly did not know that her superior was in the hospital.
The Biden administration separately announced guidelines on Tuesday requiring Cabinet secretaries to notify the White House if their duties are taken over by a principal deputy.