WASHINGTON – Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski said she “hopes and plans” to continue serving on the president’s impeachment trial, even though she will have to undergo surgery for an inflamed gall bladder within the next 10 days.
The Baltimore Democrat missed a Tuesday vote on the impeachment trial after she went into the hospital with flu-like symptoms that her physician said was the result of an inflamed gall bladder.
Mikulski was released from Baltimore’s Mercy Medical Center in time for Wednesday’s votes on the trial, but announced that she will have to return sometime in the next 10 days for the routine surgery. That surgery had not been scheduled Wednesday.
“She is fully expecting, to the degree that her physical condition allows, that she will participate fully [in the trial],” said Mona Miller, a spokeswoman for Mikulski. “But this condition can be dangerous if it’s not taken care of properly.”
Physicians say an inflamed gall bladder is usually removed and that recovery time for such surgery typically takes one to three weeks. That leaves open the possibility that Mikulski will be unable to vote on whether the president should be removed from office.
Doctors at Mercy Medical Center would not discuss Mikulski’s case, since she was treated there this week. But physicians familiar with gall bladder surgery called it a routine and relatively safe procedure.
Between 600,000 and 700,000 Americans have their gall bladders removed every year in a procedure that has a survival rate of 98 to 99 percent, said Dr. John Flowers, director of laparoscopic surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
The gall bladder is most commonly removed by laparoscopic surgery, a 45- to 60- minute procedure during which three to four tubes are inserted into the abdomen.
Because the patient does not have to be cut open under laparascopy, recovery times have been reduced sharply from the six weeks it used to take after gall bladder surgery. But physicians familiar with the procedure cautioned Wednesday that no surgery can be taken lightly.
“To have gall bladder surgery is very serious,” said Dr. William Scovill, chief of general surgery at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center. “The results are excellent and the risks are small, but the risks are real.”
Scovill said the gall bladder, located next to the liver, stores bile produced by the liver and sends it to the stomach to help digest food. Gallstones can form when there is an imbalance in the chemical composition of the bile, Flowers said, but more than half of patients with gallstones never feel the symptoms.
But Flowers said that “once a patient has developed symptoms, there is more than 50 percent chance they will continue to have attacks.”
Quick action is usually recommended for patients who suffer severe pain every time they eat or if they develop a bacterial infection that causes fever and high count of white blood cells, he said.