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Lloyd Austin hospitalized for a bladder issue; duties transferred to deputy defense secretary

On Monday, a defense official said that Austin's planned trip to Europe this week has been canceled.
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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was admitted to a critical care unit Sunday evening after being hospitalized earlier for a bladder issue, top doctors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center said.

The change in care was prompted after he underwent tests and evaluations for the "emergent bladder issue" that prompted his hospitalization Sunday afternoon, they said in a statement.

He transferred his duties to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks at about 4:55 p.m. Sunday, and the White House, Joint Chiefs and Congress have been notified, Pentagon Press Sec Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said.

Austin’s security detail took him to Walter Reed in Washington, where he retains the “unclassified and classified communications systems necessary to perform his duties,” Ryder said.

The White House and Congress have been notified of his condition, along with Hicks and Gen. Charles Brown, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"At this time, it is not clear how long Secretary Austin will remain hospitalized," the doctors said in Sunday night's statement from Walter Reed.

On Monday, a defense office said Austin's planned trip to Brussels and Germany from Tuesday to Saturday was canceled.

While in Brussels, he had been planing to attend a monthly meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group as well as the NATO defense ministers meeting.

“The Secretary will no longer travel to Brussels and Wednesday’s Ukraine Defense Contact Group will now be held virtually,” the defense official said. “We will have more information to follow soon.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., on Wednesday.Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images

Austin underwent a minimally invasive procedure in December for his prostate cancer. He later revealed he was hospitalized for several days when the procedure resulted in a bladder infection and abdominal problems.

"The current bladder issue is not expected to change his anticipated full recovery," Walter Reed trauma director Dr. John Maddox and prostate disease research director Dr. Gregory Chesnut said in the statement.

"His cancer prognosis remains excellent," they said.

Austin publicly apologized this month for his delay in informing the White House of his hospitalization. He added that the Pentagon had introduced procedures to ensure timely notification in the future.

“I’ve learned from this experience that taking this kind of job means losing some of the privacy that most of us expect,” Austin said at a news conference Feb. 1. “The American people have a right to know if their leaders are facing health challenges that might affect their ability to perform their duties, even temporarily.”

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