Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was admitted to a New York hospital tonight (Dec. 30) for treatment of a blood clot stemming from a concussion suffered earlier this month, her spokesman said.
“In the course of a follow-up exam today, Secretary Clinton’s doctors discovered a blood clot had formed, stemming from the concussion she sustained several weeks ago,” Philippe Reines, deputy assistant secretary, said in an e-mail. “She is being treated with anti-coagulants and is at New York- Presbyterian Hospital so that they can monitor the medication over the next 48 hours.”
Clinton, 65, the former U.S. senator and first lady who is one of the world’s best-known figures, hasn’t been seen in public for more than three weeks as her aides have disclosed scant details about her illness, saying first that she had come down with a stomach virus and then that she had fallen and suffered a concussion.
Reines said tonight that doctors “will continue to assess her condition, including other issues associated with her concussion. They will determine if any further action is required.”
While Reines offered no details on the location of the blood clot, Allen Taylor, chief of cardiology at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, said it may have been in her legs because recovery from her concussion has kept her largely sedentary.
Taylor, who isn’t involved in her case, said the clots known as deep vein thrombosis are common in people who are less mobile, including those who are hospitalized or fly long distances. The condition is highly treatable using blood thinners, he said.
Clinton has experienced a blood clot before. In 1998, while she was first lady, she had “the most significant health scare I’ve ever had,” she told the New York Daily News in an October 2007 interview. She recalled suffering what the newspaper described as “terrible pain” behind her right knee as she campaigned on behalf of New York’s Democratic Senator Charles Schumer.
She thought she simply needed rest until a White House doctor told her to rush to Bethesda Naval Hospital, in Bethesda, Md., where doctors diagnosed a large blood clot behind her right knee.
Clinton is among the most popular figures in the Obama administration and one some Democrats want to run for president in 2016. A Bloomberg poll conducted Dec. 7-10 found she’s viewed positively by 70% of Americans, compared with a 55% favorable rating for President Barack Obama.
Her hospitalization came after she had said she would testify in January before congressional committees on the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The secretary canceled previously scheduled appearances before House and Senate committee because of her illness.
It’s “absolutely essential that she’d testify” before leaving office, Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said today on “Fox News Sunday.”
Clinton, who has announced she would step down as secretary of state, has repeatedly said she has no plans to return to politics and would instead like to focus her future work on issues related to the rights of women and girls.
Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, an unsuccessful candidate in the 2012 presidential primaries, said Dec. 9 on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that if Clinton sought the presidency, it would be “virtually impossible to stop her for the nomination.”
“The Republican Party is incapable of competing at that level,” Gingrich said, describing Clinton as a “very formidable” person.
Obama has nominated John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to succeed Clinton, and members of both parties have said they expect him to win Senate confirmation.
Clinton has been known for her prodigious travels as secretary of state. She has traveled 949,706 miles and visited 112 countries over 401 days, according to the State Department website. The department calculates that Clinton’s time in the air amounts to 2,084.21 hours, or 86.8 days.
Clinton’s staff has provided only terse updates on her health since she last appeared at a public event on Dec. 7 in Belfast at the end of a trip that also took her to the Czech Republic, Belgium and Ireland.
On Dec. 9, the day before Clinton was set to leave again on a trip to North Africa, her staff announced that she was sick with a stomach virus and that her departure would be delayed by 24 hours. The next day, her trip was canceled and Deputy Secretary of State William Burns left to attend a conference on Syria on Clinton’s behalf.
On Dec. 15, Reines put out a statement disclosing that Clinton had suffered a concussion.
“While suffering from a stomach virus, Secretary Clinton became dehydrated and fainted, sustaining a concussion,” he said in the statement. He said she would be regularly monitored by doctors and would work at home on their recommendation.
Reines provided no details about when the concussion occurred.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Dec. 18 that Clinton was “on the mend” and had been working from home, speaking to her senior staff by telephone and e-mail, reading through the report she had requested on the Benghazi attack and working on other issues, including Syria and North Korea.
“She’s going to be absolutely fine,” Nuland said.
On Dec. 19, the State Department staff announced Clinton wouldn’t be taking any trips through mid-January as her doctors had said she shouldn’t fly for any significant duration in the weeks ahead. On Dec. 28, Reines said Clinton would be returning to work in the coming week.
A few Republicans such as John Bolton, the former ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, had suggested that Clinton was suffering from a “diplomatic illness” to avoid having to testify on Libya.
Nuland dismissed such speculation on Dec. 18 as “completely untrue.”
The statement that Clinton is being treated with anti-coagulants indicates the clot isn’t in her brain, Taylor, the cardiologist, said.
“You wouldn’t put a person on blood thinners if they had a head injury,” such as a subdural hematoma, or a clot in the brain itself, he said. “You could have a bleed inside the brain. This is likely something completely different.”
The main risk from a deep vein thrombosis is that it can break off and travel to the lungs, where the clot can turn deadly, Taylor said. The serious complications can be prevented with appropriate use of blood thinners, he said.
People who have had a deep vein thrombosis remain at higher risk for developing subsequent clots, and often take preventive medicine to reduce the risk.
“Often flying is a particular risk – people take certain measures,” Taylor said. “Getting up and moving around is the most important thing. She probably flies more than anyone else in the entire world.”