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Biden 'fit for duty' after undergoing routine physical, colonoscopy at Walter Reed

The president turns 79 years old on Saturday.
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden “remains fit for duty” and can carry out his responsibilities "without any exemptions or accommodations," Dr. Kevin O’Connor wrote Friday after the president’s first physical exam since taking office.

The White House released O’Connor’s six-page memo on Biden’s health hours after the president traveled to Walter Reed Medical Center for a routine exam and a colonoscopy.

O'Connor said the medical exam revealed that Biden, who turns 79 on Saturday, has an excessive cough and an "increasing frequency and severity of 'throat clearing'." But he noted that Biden has experienced this behavior "for as long as I have known him."

"It is acknowledged that this perception may be artificially confounded by the undeniable fact that, as President, a much greater attention is directed toward his public engagements as compared to that which he experienced in previous positions," said O’Connor, who has been Biden’s primary care physician for 13 years.

He also said that an "extremely detailed neurologic exam" showed no disorders, such as the possibility of a stroke, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's.

The exam, however, revealed mild stiffness in Biden’s movements, particularly in his feet, O'Connor said. He said the president will temporarily wear custom orthotics to correct the issue. O'Connor also prescribed physical therapy and exercise to improve the president's flexibility.

For the colonoscopy, Biden went under anesthesia during the procedure. As was the case when former President George W. Bush had the same procedure in 2002 and 2007, and following the process set out in the Constitution, Biden temporarily transferred power to Vice President Kamala Harris for the period of time when he was under anesthesia, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.

The temporary transfer of power made Harris the first woman, and first woman of color, to be acting president. She worked from her office in the West Wing during that time.

At 11:35 a.m., Psaki said that Biden spoke with Harris and White House chief of staff Ron Klain. Psaki said Biden "was in good spirits and at that time resumed his duties. He will remain at Walter Reed as he completes the rest of his routine physical."

Biden left Walter Reed just after 2 p.m. and told reporters he felt "great." He added, “I had a great physical and a great House of Representative vote," referring to passage in the morning of the Build Back Better social safety net legislation.

The last time a full medical assessment of Biden was publicly released was in 2019 by his campaign when he was running for the Democratic nomination. At the time, Biden was described by O’Connor of The George Washington University as a “healthy, vigorous, 77-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency to include those as Chief Executive, Head of State and Commander in Chief.”

Psaki had been frequently asked when Biden — the oldest president to assume office and oldest sitting president — would undergo a physical.

“He will be doing his physical soon, as I've noted before,” she said last week. “As soon as he does that, we will provide that information transparently to all of you."

In 2019, Biden had been taking medication for acid reflux, cholesterol and seasonal allergies as well as blood thinners.

Biden survived two brain aneurysms in the late 1980s and doctors discovered that one of them didn’t rupture. He also suffered from deep vein thrombosis and a pulmonary embolism. O'Connor said in 2019 that there were no serious threats to Biden’s health and his past medical conditions were under control.

Former President Donald Trump’s first physical after his inauguration didn’t take place until a year into his presidency, when then-White House physician Ronny Jackson said in a 33-word statement that Trump's overall health was "excellent" and that he had "a lot of energy and a lot of stamina.”