WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was diagnosed with prostate cancer in December and underwent a minimally invasive procedure to treat and cure it, Walter Reed National Military Center officials said Tuesday.
“Secretary Austin recovered uneventfully from surgery and returned home the next morning. His prostate cancer was detected early and his prognosis is excellent,” officials said.
Austin, 70, was then admitted to Walter Reed on Jan. 1 with “complications from a Dec. 22 procedure, including nausea with severe abdominal, hip and leg pain,” officials said.
An initial evaluation determined he had a urinary tract infection, and on January 2, it was decided to move Austin to the intensive care unit for “closer monitoring and a higher level of care.”
Doctors later discovered that Austin had “an accumulation of fluid in his abdominal cavity that was disrupting the function of his small intestines.”
“This resulted in a backup of intestinal contents, which was treated by placing a tube in his nose to empty his stomach,” authorities said. “The abdominal fluid collection was drained with non-operative drain placement. He progressed steadily throughout his stay.”
Officials said Austin’s “infection has cleared” and “he continues to make progress, and although it will be a slow process, we expect to make a full recovery.” During his hospitalization, Austin “never lost consciousness and never underwent general anesthesia,” they said.
The announcement about his condition is a new development after the defense minister and several of his aides He waited days to inform the White House and key Pentagon officials of his hospitalization for complications after what is described as an “elective medical procedure.”
The public did not know he had been hospitalized until Thursday, Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement. Austin He was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Monday night for “complications following a last resort medical procedure,” though he did not say what the procedure was.
The Defense Department did not inform senior officials on the National Security Council of the secretary’s hospitalization until Thursday.
Active Tuesday, the day after admissionwere some duties of the secretary moved To Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, who is on vacation in Puerto Rico. A senior defense official said Sunday that he was not informed of Austin’s hospitalization until Thursday.
Ryder told reporters Monday that Austin was notified of his hospitalization on Jan. 2, a day after he was admitted and two days before President Joe Biden and national security adviser Jake Sullivan were told. Ryder spoke to reporters on camera Thursday and did not disclose the secretary’s hospitalization. He did not provide further details, including instructions not to tell anyone.
Ryder also said Monday that Pentagon lawyers are investigating whether any laws were violated when they failed to notify US leaders and Congress.
All this happened, including at a time when tensions in the Middle East continued to rise a rare and controversial holiday by the US against a senior Iranian-backed militia member in Baghdad.