Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin cancels overseas trip following hospitalization

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin underwent general anesthesia Monday in the hospital for a non-surgical procedure to treat an “emerging bladder issue,” his doctors said in a statement.

They said he will be able to resume normal duties on Tuesday and that “a prolonged hospital stay is not anticipated.”

Austin He was forced to cancel a planned trip to Brussels this week as a result of the medical episode.

Austin’s hospitalization, which began Sunday, was the secretary’s third since his prostate cancer diagnosis last December. Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder could not say during a news conference Monday what type of medical procedure Austin received and whether his bladder problem was a complication of his Dec. 22 surgery for prostate cancer. or an unrelated matter.

Ryder said the secretary no longer needed additional treatment associated with his cancer diagnosis, other than physical therapy to address persistent pain in his legs.

“He is expected to make a full recovery,” he said.

The Pentagon had announced last week that Austin would travel to Brussels to attend a monthly meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, the more than 50 countries that provide military aid to Ukraine, and a separate meeting of NATO defense ministers.

Ryder said the meeting would now be virtual.

Austin’s hospitalization became public shortly after his security team took him to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Sunday. Ryder said the White House was notified before the secretary was taken to the hospital.

“At approximately 4:55 p.m. today, Secretary Austin transferred the functions and duties of the office of the Secretary of Defense to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks,” Ryder said in an earlier statement. “The Under Secretary of Defense has assumed duties and functions. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the White House and Congress have been notified.”

On Sunday night, Austin’s doctors at Walter Reed, Dr. John Maddox and Dr. Gregory Chesnut, said he had been admitted to the critical care unit.

“Earlier today, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III was transported by his security detail to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to be examined for symptoms suggesting an emerging bladder problem. Tonight, after a series of tests and evaluations, the Secretary was admitted to the intensive care unit at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for supportive care and close monitoring,” his statement said.

PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin delivers a speech during a meeting with Kenyan Defense Minister Aden Duale at the Pentagon on February 7, 2024 in Arlington, Virginia.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin delivers a speech during a meeting with Kenyan Defense Minister Aden Duale at the Pentagon on February 7, 2024 in Arlington, Virginia.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The Defense Secretary previously underwent a minimally invasive surgical procedure for prostate cancer on December 22, which caused a urinary tract infection and serious intestinal complications. He was hospitalized again on Jan. 1, but the White House didn’t find out for three days, a secret that sparked intense scrutiny and criticism.

“I should have told the president about my cancer diagnosis, and I should have told my team and the American public,” Austin told reporters earlier this month. “I take full responsibility. I apologize to my teammates and the American people.”

Austin also spoke in personal terms about his health problems.

“The news shook me, as I know it shakes many others, especially in the black community. It was a punch in the gut,” he said at the time. “And, frankly, my first instinct was to keep it private. I don’t think it’s news that I’m a pretty private guy. I never like to burden others with my problems. It’s just not my way.”

President Joe Biden publicly blamed Austin for not informing him before his hospitalization following his cancer procedure in January, but also told reporters that he still had confidence in Austin.

Austin has said he apologized directly to Biden and told him he was “deeply” sorry for not informing him of his diagnosis immediately.

An internal review and investigation by the Department of Defense inspector general are underway.

ABC News’ Alexandra Hutzler contributed to this report.

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