Here's everything you need to know about kidney embolization, a condition that has put Melania Trump in the hospital for weeks

Here's everything you need to know about kidney embolization, a condition that has put Melania Trump in the hospital for weeks

The first lady suffers due to an apparently benign cyst in her kidney in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Melania Trump is, as we speak, undergoing treatment for "benign kidney condition" at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, making her the only First Lady since Nancy Reagan to undergo such a serious operation.

Melania underwent an "embolization procedure" to treat her condition after which Trump said she "looks forward to a full recovery." She has been hospitalized through the week to ensure complete recovery. While the president remained in the White House during the surgery, he flew down to visit her hours after she went through a kidney procedure on late Monday afternoon. 

In the flagship military hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, Melania had to have a cyst removed from a kidney - one which was later reported to be benign or non-cancerous. 

Trump flew to visit her and used Twitter to let everyone know that she was well on her way to recovery. 

President Trump only spent an hour or so in the hospital after which he made his way back to the White House via motorcade because of the thunderstorm in the area that that night. 

On his way back, Trump later tweeted, "the procedure was successful and there were no complications. Mrs. Trump is at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and will likely remain there for the duration of the week."

As part of the procedure, doctors had to block a blood vessel and stop the flow in a specific area to prevent the patient from bleeding. Melania Trump's communication director, Stephanie Grisham, says, "This morning, First Lady Melania Trump underwent an embolization procedure to treat a benign kidney condition."

She continues by saying, "The First Lady looks forward to a full recovery so she can continue her work on behalf of children everywhere," referring to her recently launched "Be Best" campaign.


To understand Melania's issue better, we must gain an insight into what kidney embolization means. It is a simple procedure that intentionally blocks off a blood vessel in the kidney. Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt, a urologist at Orlando Health explains, "Embolization is a minimally invasive procedure to stop blood flow to parts of an organ (in this case kidney). It can be used to treat malignant and benign lesions."

Not only is it the first-line treatment for any sort of gastrointestinal bleeding but also used for preventive reasons. It does not necessarily have to do with the kidney and can be performed on any organ that has a growth or blood vessel clump.

In short, the two main reasons why anybody would perform a kidney embolization is - to cut off a tumor's blood supply and shrink or control a cyst before it can rupture" or as an emergency to stem the bleeding of a ruptured cyst on the specific organ. 

In Melania's case, the procedure was performed to shrink a benign cyst or an angiomyolipoma by cutting the blood supply.  These growths affect women four times more than men and unfortunately, 80% of them are spontaneous and 20% genetic. 

Doctors do not recommend surgery unless it grows too big. Dr Brahmbhatt says, "If they're under four centimeters, we just monitor it, but if it goes over four centimeters, the risk of it rupturing goes up way high, so that's when we suggest treatment."

The patient is usually given local anesthesia while the procedure is done through an X-ray view. The surgeon makes a tiny incision near the groin to guide a long and thin tube called the catheter through a blood vessel towards the kidney. 

A chemical or the "agent" that causes the blood to clot is injected with the purpose of cutting off the flow of blood. The entire procedure takes around 3 hours requiring the patient to be hospitalized for days afterwards. "after embolization patients often have nausea, vomiting, fever, and pain that could last a few days." 

Doctor says, "These procedures are fairly low risk but still require close follow-up."

While Embolizations are mostly minor operations with low risks of complications or side effects, some exceptional cases involve the patient having a bad reaction to the dye used in the procedure. In case the patient experiences discomfort or minor bleeding after the procedure is over, they have to be monitored overnight. 

It is also okay for the patient to develop fever, weakness, and nausea — or a temporary condition called "post-embolization syndrome" but it is expected to subside within a few days. 

In regard to Melania's treatment, Dr Sanjay Gupta says, "[It's] unclear exactly what she had done. An embolization procedure is typically done for cancer, although it's very clear in this statement that this was a benign condition."

"That's how they've framed it. So it doesn't sound like it's any type of cancer. Sometimes thyroids, or cysts, or something like that, can be treated as well [through embolization]."

We wish the First Lady a speedy recovery.

Recommended for you