First lady Melania Trump was recently hospitalized to treat a benign kidney condition. She has been cared for at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland according to the official public statement and is expected to make a full recovery. Though the White House is keeping the details as private as possible, we do know that her treatment included an embolization procedure. Though this term is unfamiliar to many, it’s a surprisingly common and effective type of treatment. To learn more about what embolization might entail, we consulted Dr. Grant Webber, an interventional radiologist with Radiology Specialists of Florida.
What is embolization?
Embolization is a targeted procedure that stops the blood flow to a particular area. It can be performed for both benign and malignant conditions using a variety of different embolic materials. These medications or synthetic materials are placed most commonly through a catheter into a blood vessel to prevent blood flow to the area. Once the embolic materials are positioned properly, they will remain in place permanently. Embolization is typically performed by an interventional radiologist like Dr. Webber, who uses live imaging to guide the procedure.
“Embolization procedures have become extremely common as they provide minimally invasive alternatives to conditions that previously required invasive and often complex surgical procedures,” he says.
What does it treat?
Embolization can be used on almost any part of the body to restrict blood flow or prevent bleeding. Dr. Webber explained that it’s performed to treat various conditions in the kidney, as Mrs. Trump experienced.
“The most common lesion treated with embolization is a benign lesion called angiomyolipoma,” he said. “However, over time, this lesion may grow. As it becomes larger, there is an increased risk of bleeding or hemorrhage from the mass. Therefore, at a certain size, these lesions are usually treated with an embolization procedure. It can prevent the need for future surgery.”
Embolization procedures can also be performed to treat aneurysms involving the arteries supplying the kidneys, or to decrease cancer patients’ risk of bleeding during a future surgery or resection.
What’s recovery like?
Mrs. Trump’s procedure was reported to be successful with no complications. She is expected to recover in the hospital for a week before returning home.
Embolization procedures are typically quick, commonly lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. They are most commonly outpatient procedures, and patients are usually back home the same day. Depending on the complexity of the case, however, they may be performed in an inpatient setting, requiring a few days of monitoring before the patient can return home.
“It would be purely speculative at this point as to why the First Lady is staying in the hospital for a few days after the procedure,” said Dr. Webber. “It may mean this is a slightly more complex situation, or it may simply reflect that the medical team is practicing a high degree of caution, which would not be unusual given the profile of the patient.”
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