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First lady undergoes surgery for neck pain

First lady Laura Bush will undergo outpatient surgery on Saturday to treat pinched nerves in her neck that prevented her from accompanying President George W. Bush to Australia, her spokeswoman said.
Laura Bush
First Lady Laura Bush speaks at the National Press Club in Washington in July.Gerald Herbert / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

First lady Laura Bush underwent surgery Saturday to relieve pain from pinched nerves in her neck. The White House said the procedure was successful.

The problem kept her from joining President Bush on a trip to Australia this week for the annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Sydney.

Mrs. Bush underwent the 2½-hour procedure at The George Washington University Hospital. The surgical team was led by Dr. Anthony Caputy, chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery and co-director of the Neurological Institute, in consultation with Dr. Richard Tubb, who is the president’s doctor.

Mrs. Bush returned to the White House in the afternoon and was said to be resting comfortably. She had no public events scheduled through Monday. It was not immediately clear how much time she would need to recuperate.

“Every patient is different, so there’s no kind of set timeframe. She will certainly ease back into her schedule,” said Sally McDonough, Mrs. Bush’s spokeswoman.

While en route from Sydney to Hawaii, Bush telephoned his wife at the hospital and they spoke for two to three minutes, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

‘She sounded very well’
Mrs. Bush told the president the operation was a success.

“He said she sounded very well,” Perino said. “He looks forward to getting back to help her in the recovery.”

Bush is expected to return to Washington at about dawn Sunday.

McDonough said on Friday that doctors planned to use a minimally invasive procedure to remove pressure from the nerve by enlarging the passageway where the nerve sits near the spinal column.

The first lady had been in discomfort for some time.

Mrs. Bush injured a nerve in her neck and shoulder earlier this year while hiking and has been treated with physical therapy since. Her doctors advised her to not travel overseas, saying such long flights could aggravate the problem and cause complications.

When the physical therapy did not work, doctors suggested surgery.