U.S. Sen. John McCain on Friday underwent a medical procedure at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix to remove a blood clot from above his left eye, the 80-year-old Arizona Republican’s office announced Saturday afternoon.
McCain’s recovery from the procedure will cause him to be absent from the Senate next week, forcing an unexpected delay in Senate Republicans’ efforts to pass their controversial health-care legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Arizona time that while McCain “is recovering, the Senate will … defer consideration of the Better Care Act.”
“There are few people tougher than my friend John McCain, and I know he’ll be back with us soon,” McConnell said.
Mayo Clinic surgeons took out the 5-centimeter blood clot during “a minimally invasive craniotomy with an eyebrow incision,” according to a hospital statement released by McCain’s office. The surgery followed a routine annual physical. Tissue pathology reports are pending, the hospital said.
A craniotomy involves a surgical opening into the skull.
“The senator is resting comfortably at home and is in good condition. His Mayo Clinic doctors report that the surgery went ‘very well’ and he is in good spirits,” the Mayo Clinic statement said. “Once the pathology information is available, further care will be discussed between doctors and the family. In the meantime, his Mayo Clinic care team will not be conducting interviews.”
McCain’s office, in its own written statement, echoed that the senator is in good spirits and will miss work in the Senate next week, when his colleagues had been expected to take up the Republican health-care bill that critics have dubbed “Trumpcare” after President Donald Trump.
Two of the 52 Republicans who control the 100-member Senate are against the bill, as are all Democrats. Senate Republican leaders cannot spare any more GOP votes. On Thursday, McCain said he intended to offer amendments to the Better Care Reconciliation Act.
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) July 16, 2017
“Senator McCain received excellent treatment at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix, and appreciates the tremendous professionalism and care by its doctors and staff,” McCain’s office said. “He is in good spirits and recovering comfortably at home with his family. On the advice of his doctors, Senator McCain will be recovering in Arizona next week.”
David Adelson, a neurosurgeon who directs Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, said a possible reason for such a surgery would be to relieve pressure. Older adults can develop small blood clots that build up over time. And surgeons could intervene to drain or remove such clots.
“It can have symptoms like headache, dizziness or subtle weakness that shows up in an exam,” said Adelson, who did not examine McCain.
Mayo Clinic described the surgery as a minimally invasive procedure that was used to remove a 5-centimeter (roughly 2 inch) blood clot. Mayo Clinic would not further describe the procedure beyond its written statement.
According to Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s website, “eyebrow” craniotomies may be used rather than an endoscope when a tumor is large or close to optic nerves or vital arteries. Other advantages can be less pain, faster recovery and small scars.
“It is most likely something that was not in the brain, but on the surface of the brain that caused some pressure,” said Adelson, based on the description of the surgery provided by Mayo Clinic.
McCain spent more than five years in brutal conditions as a prisoner of war in Vietnam from 1967 to 1973.
Over the years, McCain, who has a fair complexion, has battled melanoma, a sometimes-deadly form of skin cancer. A scar on the side of his face is a visible reminder of a serious 2000 episode. He’s had at least four documented cases.
“Like most Americans, I go to see my doctor fairly frequently,” McCain told reporters when he was running for president in 2008.
As news of his surgery spread Saturday afternoon, McCain’s colleagues wished him well on social media.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., issued a statement.
“I have never known a man more tenacious and resilient than John McCain,” Flake said. ”I look forward to seeing him back at work soon. In the meantime, Cheryl and I extend our best wishes to John, Cindy and the entire McCain family and pray for his speedy recovery.”
Gov. Doug Ducey expressed relief that McCain appeared to be doing well.
“Wishing you a speedy recovery,” Ducey tweeted.