WASHINGTON – President Biden’s personal physician said on Friday he was a “healthy, vigorous 78-year-old man” who was fit to serve, after the president underwent a comprehensive medical assessment and briefly transferred powers to the vice president so that he could undergo a colonoscopy.
Dr Kevin O’Connor, the president’s doctor, said Mr Biden had developed a “more pronounced” tendency to cough and clear his throat during speaking engagements. After performing tests, including those designed to detect 19 various respiratory pathogens, Dr O’Connor said the culprit was gastroesophageal reflux, or acid reflux, a condition that can be treated with Pepcid.
Dr O’Connor also said Mr Biden’s gait became stiffer, which he said was caused by age-related changes in the president’s spine. He added that an “extremely detailed neurological examination” had ruled out the possibility that the stiffness could be caused by stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease or other neurological disorders.
A broken foot that Mr Biden suffered last year “has healed well,” said Dr O’Connor, while adding that the president could benefit from orthopedic shoes.
A “benign-looking” three-millimeter polyp was found during what Dr. O’Connor said was a regular colonoscopy, and a pathologist’s assessment of the polyp is expected to be completed next week. Mr Biden’s lipid levels are “remarkably low,” said Dr O’Connor.
During the colonoscopy, Vice President Kamala Harris became the first woman to assume interim presidential duties. She spent that 85 minutes in her West Wing office watching live television coverage of the House passing a major social spending program, her office said.
Historically, presidential exams have been used to reinforce the image the president wishes to portray of his health, and the details provided largely relate to the president’s age and health. There is no blueprint for what presidents should post about their health, and the details they choose to disclose are up to them. In Mr Biden’s case, his physical exam was not included in his public schedule ahead of time and was carried out amid an attack from Tory commentators raising questions about his age – he will be 79 years Saturday – and his fitness to perform his duties.
Poll published by Politico and Morning Consult this week revealed that a growing number of voters do not think Mr Biden is in good health and that voters are roughly evenly split on his mental state.
Mr Biden’s predecessor, Donald J. Trump, faced similar questions about his mental acuity throughout his presidency. In 2018, questions about his sanity, fueled by the publication of the book “Fire & Fury”, intensified to the point that Mr. Trump insisted to the public that he was a “stable genius.”
Dr O’Connor did not specify in his report whether Mr Biden had undergone cognitive tests, which many doctors recommend for the elderly. Dr O’Connor served as Mr Biden’s physician when he was Vice President and was appointed President’s physician on inauguration day.
Since Mr. Biden took office, Republicans have made repeated references to his age. In September, Republican Senator Jim Risch of Idaho questioned Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken during a Senate hearing about Mr. Biden’s suitability for office, saying the presidency of Biden was a “puppeteer act”. In this exchange, Mr Blinken, looking puzzled, replied that “the president speaks a lot for himself”.
In presidential physical exams, the White House often provides specific information about height, weight, and cholesterol. Physical examinations of President George W. Bush indicated that he smoked cigars on occasion. His decision in 2002 to have a colonoscopy at Camp David – and briefly transfer presidential power to Vice President Dick Cheney – made headlines.
Dr O’Connor said Mr Biden’s physical examination was “fundamentally unchanged from baseline” except for new findings which concluded he had mild peripheral neuropathy, a condition defined by nerve damage, pain and stiffening of the feet. Despite extensive testing, the team found no cause for this condition.
Mr Biden’s height, 5 feet 11 inches, and weight, 184 pounds, gave him a body mass index of 25, which is in the lower end of being overweight.
Presidential physical exams are “only as credible as the doctor who issues them, that’s what we’ve learned,” said Matthew Dallek, a political historian. “Biden seems to be a lot simpler than a lot of presidents and more transparent in the 10 months or so he’s been in office, but since we don’t have access to all the details it is very difficult to fully trust those details.” . reports.”
Mr. Biden’s physical examination and colonoscopy took place at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
The White House has released the specialties of the medical professionals who evaluated Mr. Biden, as have a number of his predecessors. Mr. Biden has been treated by consultants specializing in optometry, allergy treatment, dentistry, foot and ankle orthopedics, spine orthopedics, physiotherapy, neurology, cardiology, radiology, dermatology, anesthesiology and gastroenterology, a said Dr O’Conner.
A geriatrician was not one of the medical specialists in 12 disciplines who participated in the president’s detailed health check-up on Friday. Geriatrics is the specialty that focuses on the elderly. Consultations with geriatricians are usually determined by a patient or their attending physician. There is no specific age at which geriatricians usually begin examining patients.
Mr Biden used Section 3 of the 25th Amendment to temporarily transfer power during his colonoscopy. Under this provision, the president was required to inform the pro tempore president of the Senate, Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, and president Nancy Pelosi that he was temporarily unable to perform his presidential duties. These letters were sent to the two at 10:10 a.m.
Mr Biden returned to duty at around 11:35 a.m. Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Twitter, adding that he was “in a good mood”. Three hours later, the president emerged from Walter Reed and told reporters the process went smoothly.
“Okay! We’ll release all the details. I feel great. Nothing has changed. We’re in great shape,” Biden said, before returning to the White House to pardon a pair of turkeys. I can’t wait to celebrate my 58th birthday. “