Experts from Mass. hospitals explain the procedure Melania Trump underwent on Monday

First lady Melania Trump.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
First lady Melania Trump.

First lady Melania Trump underwent an embolization procedure Monday morning to treat a benign kidney condition, according to the White House.

So what exactly does that mean?

Embolization, the procedure the president’s wife underwent, is used to deliberately block blood vessels to starve some kind of growth or stop some kind of bleeding, a Massachusetts General Hospital kidney expert said Monday.


“Embolization is usually used when there’s some bleeding from somewhere,” said Dr. Nwamaka Eneanya, a nephrologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant medical professor.

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People who get the procedure may have experienced blood in their urine or pain from blood occupying spaces in their bodies where it shouldn’t be, she said.

“There’s a reason somebody would do this procedure,” she said.

The good news is that a White House statement described the first lady as having a “benign kidney condition” — which means that she doesn’t have cancer, Eneanya said.

The embolization procedure can be done either by a surgeon or in a minimally invasive way by an interventional radiologist, Eneanya said.


“Anything that’s bleeding can be stopped with embolization,” she said.

According to the White House, the first lady’s procedure was successful and there were no complications. She’s expected to remain at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for the rest of the week to recover.

Dr. Joseph Bonventre, head of the division of renal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said it’s difficult to know from the limited information exactly what Trump’s condition and treatment were.

He said growths are sometimes “found incidentally” when a patient has nondescript abdominal pain and gets an ultrasound of their kidney or a CT scan of their stomach. Doctors then take action to “prevent the growth from getting large” and interfering with other important blood vessels, he said.

In such cases, a minimally invasive approach is typically used with a catheter inserted through the blood vessels to the kidney, where material is injected to block the targeted vessel, starving the growth of oxygen, Bonventre said.


He said the weeklong hospital stay wasn’t unusual because doctors may want to monitor Trump for bleeding, and because “you’re killing some tissue and there might be some pain,” which doctors can treat.

Embolization is “a procedure that uses particles, such as tiny gelatin sponges or beads, to block a blood vessel,” according to the National Cancer Institute.