First Lady Melania Trump is recovering at the hospital after undergoing a “successful” embolization procedure for a benign kidney condition, according to her communications director.
In most cases an embolization procedure in the kidney is used to treat tumors or growths that occur “spontaneously,” Dr. Jeffrey Berns, professor of medicine and pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, who does not treat Trump, tells PEOPLE.
“There’s a variety of things an embolization can be used for. It is used for cancer, but there can be benign tumors of the kidney,” Dr. Berns says. “The best example is an angiomyolipoma, which is a collection of cells of different types that occur spontaneously, and can occur concurrently with other systemic diseases, but they are benign lesions that can be treated with embolization.”
The embolization procedure forces the blood vessels to clot, and stops blood flow to a tumor or growth. The procedure is non-surgical, and instead uses a catheter that is typically inserted in the femoral artery, to the right of the groin, and is threaded up to the kidney.
“The catheter goes through the kidney through smaller and smaller blood vessels until the area that needs to be embolized is isolated, and then there would be any number of materials that can be injected into the catheter to cause the blood vessels involved to clot,” Dr. Berns explains.
The tumor or growth will eventually die out with the lack of blood flow, and Dr. Berns says that if there is just one of them, this one procedure should be sufficient.
“Typically if it’s a single isolated lesion of some sort, and there are no others in the kidneys, then this is likely to be definitive treatment,” he says. “If this is something that can repeatedly occur over time, then it would need some surveillance.”
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The recovery time is also dependent on the specifics of the kidney condition, and a week in the hospital for Trump may not be out of the ordinary if a significant area of the kidney needed treatment.
“It really depends on what they were treating,” Dr. Berns says.