First lady Melania Trump’s office has released few details about the medical procedure she underwent Monday or the “benign kidney condition” that led her to seek treatment at a military hospital near Washington.
But medical experts are making some educated guesses about what might be going on as Trump, 48, recovers from what was described as an embolization procedure at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
On Monday, her office said the procedure was successful, with no complications, but the first lady will remain in the hospital for the rest of the week.
USA TODAY spoke with Jamin Brahmbhatt, a urologic surgeon at Orlando Health in Florida, about what might be going on medically with Trump.
Q: What kind of “benign kidney condition” might require an embolization procedure?
A: The most likely culprit is a non-cancerous growth called an angiomyolipoma. It’s made up of fat, abnormal blood vessels and smooth muscle. A second possibility is a blood vessel abnormality called an arteriovenous malformation. A less likely culprit is a cyst, since it typically would not be treated with embolization.
Q: What is involved in an embolization?
A: That is a general term for a procedure that blocks blood flow to a problem area of the body. In the case of a kidney abnormality, doctors would typically thread a thin tube through a blood vessel, often starting in the groin, and inject a substance to cut off blood flow to the benign tumor or malformation. The idea is to stop or prevent bleeding or other symptoms and to shrink the abnormality or at least stop it from growing.
Q: How are such kidney abnormalities found?
A: Most are found during imaging tests – MRIs, CT scans or X-rays – done for other reasons. But some people have symptoms, such as pain in the flank or blood in the urine, when a benign tumor becomes quite large, leading their doctors to order testing. Blood vessel abnormalities in the kidneys also can cause high blood pressure.
Q: Is it unusual to stay in the hospital for several days after such procedure?
A: Cases differ. Most embolization procedures do not require several days of hospitalization, and many people go home the same day. But in some cases, patients do stay for a night or longer to be observed for problems that can develop such as nausea, vomiting and pain, especially if a fairly large mass was treated. Follow-up imaging also may be done.
Q: Who is at risk for an angiomyolipoma?
A: Women are much more likely than men to get them, by a four to one margin. About 20% of patients have a family history of the condition.