FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TUESDAY, MARCH 9, 2004
TDD (202) 514-1888
ATTORNEY GENERAL JOHN ASHCROFT TO UNDERGO
PROCEDURE AT G.W. HOSPITAL
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Attorney General John Ashcroft will undergo a cholecystectomy to remove his gallbladder on Tuesday, March 9, at 12:00 p.m. Attorney General Ashcroft entered G.W. Hospital on March 4 complaining of stomach pain. After a full medical work-up in the emergency room, he was diagnosed with a severe case of Gallstone Pancreatitis. He has remained in the hospital for the past four days.
According to the National Institutes of Health, gallstones can cause pancreatitis and they usually require surgical removal. After the gallstones are removed and inflammation goes away, the pancreas usually returns to normal. Some people have more than one attack and recover completely after each, but acute pancreatitis can be a severe, life-threatening illness with many complications. About 80,000 cases occur in the United States each year, with some 20 percent of them severe. Acute pancreatitis occurs more often in men than women.
“The Attorney General’s pancreatitis has improved to a point where he’s stable enough to withstand surgery,” said Dr. Bruce Abell, the surgeon who will perform the procedure at The George Washington University Hospital. “He has several gallstones remaining in his gallbladder that are of concern to us. As a preventive measure we are going to remove his gallbladder, because when the gallbladder isn’t removed, up to 50% of patients have a recurrence of pancreatitis within six weeks.”
Dr. Abell continued, “We plan to remove his gallbladder laparoscopically, but if necessary, we will switch to open surgery.”
Surgery to remove the gallbladder usually takes about 2 hours. In those cases involving pancreatitis, patients are usually kept in the hospital for 4-5 days for observation.
Press inquiries are being handled by the Department of Justice press office at (202) 616-2777. Future updates of Attorney General Ashcroft’s condition will be posted on the GW Hospital Web site at www.gwhospital.com.
A press briefing will be held in 117 Ross Hall after the procedure. Media can begin set-up at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 9. Contact Maureen Ryan at 202-715-4417.