Feb. 12 (UPI) — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin underwent a non-surgical procedure to treat an emergency bladder situation and could resume his duties as soon as Tuesday, the Pentagon says.
Doctors treating Austin at Walter Reed Army Medical Center said Monday he was placed under general anesthesia for the procedure and will be monitored overnight but is expected to be released from the hospital within 24 hours, Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters in a briefing.
“A prolonged hospital stay is not anticipated. We anticipate the secretary will be able to resume his normal duties [Tuesday],” he said, relaying a statement from Walter Reed physicians John Maddox and Gregory Chesnut.
They said Austin’s current bladder issue “is not expected to change his anticipated full recovery” from prostate cancer, adding his prognosis for that condition “remains excellent.”
The update was delivered after Austin was hospitalized over the weekend for the bladder issue with his duties being transferred to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks. The Pentagon said Sunday he had been moved to a critical care unit, where he was being closely monitored after undergoing a series of “tests and evaluations.”
Ryder confirmed Monday that Austin will not travel to Brussels this week as originally intended to attend NATO and Ukraine meetings. Instead, he is expected to participate in the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting virtually, although even those plans remain “flexible” due to his health.
Also, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. will represent Austin at the upcoming NATO defense ministers’ meeting Brussels, Ryder said.
Austin’s latest stint in the hospital comes after he was hospitalized on Jan. 1 after experiencing leg pain related to a prostate cancer treatment and ultimately spent four days in the hospital, during which time his deputy secretary assumed the functions of his office.
However, he drew criticism for the fact that the White House was not notified of his hospitalization until days later.
Last week, Austin agreed to testify before the House Armed Services Committee on Feb. 29 about keeping his previous hospitalization secret without the knowledge of Congress and even President Joe Biden.
Some lawmakers were outraged that Austin left his whereabouts unknown while he underwent prostate cancer surgery at the same time as the United States’ indirect involvement in wars raging in Ukraine and Israel. GOP House members have called on him to step down.