WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump revealed new details on Friday about the closely guarded medical condition of Melania Trump, the first lady, saying that she underwent a four-hour operation and that her recovery would keep her from traveling abroad with him.
Until Donald Trump stepped in front of the cameras as he departed on an international trip on Friday, there had been no leaks.
The president said that Melania Trump “wanted to go” with him to the Group of 7 summit meeting in Quebec, and then on to Singapore for a planned sit-down with Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader. But, the president said, she was staying at the White House on doctor’s orders.
“She had a big operation,” Trump said. “That was a close to a four-hour operation. And she’s doing great.”
Few details have emerged from the first lady’s office.
On May 14, the East Wing said Melania Trump underwent an embolization procedure, which is meant to cut off the blood supply that feeds the kidney. It is usually used to stop bleeding from a benign tumor or a small aneurysm, or to reverse the growth of such a tumor, according to specialists.
The White House did not explain what led Melania Trump to seek treatment or whether the “benign kidney condition” meant she had a benign tumor or something else. In a statement, the East Wing said the procedure had been successful, with no complications.
In the hours afterward, aides wore scrubs around the first lady, a precaution that specialists said would be unnecessary for an embolization procedure.
Presented with the president’s timeline for Melania Trump’s surgery, Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director, reiterated that the first lady’s embolization procedure had been successful.
“The statement I put out on May 14 was correct,” Grisham wrote in an email on Friday. “Mrs. Trump had a successful embolization procedure. She cannot travel internationally yet, and is doing great.”
When asked if the embolization was the only procedure performed that day, Grisham said that it was. She later added that it was the only procedure done for Melania Trump’s “entire stay” at the hospital.
The president has previously provided details to the public about his wife’s medical procedure that turned out to be incorrect. After the procedure, Donald Trump told the public that his wife would be home from the hospital in two to three days; she ended up staying for five.
The details given by the president on Friday also do not match up with the surgical or recovery timeline for a typical embolization procedure with no complications, according to experts.
Dr. Kelvin Hong, the director of the Johns Hopkins Interventional Radiology Center, said a four-hour operation to treat the condition described by the White House would be unusual.
“I think the range from one to two hours would be much more likely,” Hong said.
But, he added, the president could have been taking into account pre-surgery preparation time and any post-operation treatment, in addition to the embolization itself.
“There’s no question that family members can sometimes feel as if the procedure is something of that magnitude,” Hong said, “from the time the patient departs the pre-procedure area until the time they see the patient again.”
Dr. Jeffrey Berns, the associate chief of the nephrology division at Penn Medicine, said that a four-hour procedure would be “not unrealistic” if all of the preparation work — including cleaning the area, inserting lidocaine to numb the skin and inserting a catheter — was taken into account.
“The longer the procedure, the more likely that there was more than one lesion,” Berns said. “But honestly, I suspect that given who the patient was, they were taking their time and being extra careful.”
The president has cited Melania Trump’s surgery as a reason she will not accompany him abroad. There are a range of recommended waiting periods to avoid discomfort and blood clotting while flying, but three experts, who have not treated the first lady, said that if Melania Trump’s procedure had no complications, as the White House has repeatedly said, it would not be unheard-of for a physician to clear her for travel.
In the past, the stylish, Slovenia-born first lady has been an asset to her husband on the world stage, and has at times softened the image of a president who tends to use blunt force in his diplomatic efforts.
As he arrived in Canada for the Group of 7 summit meeting, Donald Trump stood alone among other leaders and their spouses. After greeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and his wife, Sophie, Trump stood solo and gave a thumbs-up to journalists.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.