WASHINGTON – First lady Laura Bush underwent surgery Saturday to relieve pain from pinched nerves in her neck. The White House said the procedure was successful.
The problem kept her from joining President Bush on a trip to Australia this week for the annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Sydney.
Mrs. Bush underwent the 2 1/2-hour procedure at The George Washington University Hospital. The surgical team was led by Dr. Anthony Caputy, chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery and co-director of the Neurological Institute, in consultation with Dr. Richard Tubb, who is the president's doctor.
Mrs. Bush returned to the White House in the afternoon and was said to be resting comfortably.
While en route from Sydney to Hawaii, Bush telephoned his wife at the hospital and they spoke for two to three minutes, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.
Mrs. Bush told the president the operation was a success.
"He said she sounded very well," Perino said. "He looks forward to getting back to help her in the recovery."
Bush is expected to return to Washington at about dawn Sunday.
Sally McDonough, Mrs. Bush's spokeswoman, said on Friday that doctors planned to use a minimally invasive procedure to remove pressure from the nerve by enlarging the passageway where the nerve sits near the spinal column.
The first lady had been in discomfort for some time. She rubbed her right arm repeatedly during a meeting with reporters at the White House 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. Her doctors 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.