First Lady Laura Bush to Undergo Surgery for Pinched Nerves in Neck

Laura Bush will undergo surgery on Saturday to relieve pain from pinched nerves in her neck, her press secretary said Friday.

The problem prevented the first lady from accompanying President Bush to Australia this week for the annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Sydney.

Bush will be in Australia on Saturday, returning to Washington around dawn Sunday.

Spokeswoman Sally McDonough said Mrs. Bush was having elective outpatient surgery. She said the physician would use a minimally invasive procedure to take pressure off the nerve by enlarging the passageway where the nerve sits near the spinal column.

The first lady has been in discomfort for some time. She rubbed her right arm repeatedly during a meeting with reporters on Wednesday.

Mrs. Bush injured a nerve in her neck and shoulder earlier this year while hiking and has been treated with physical therapy since, McDonough said late last month. Her doctors strongly 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.

McDonough would not reveal where the surgery would be performed, saying that Mrs. Bush is a private citizen, not an elected official.