FRIDAY, Nov. 19, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- President Joe Biden underwent a routine colonoscopy on Friday, and briefly transferred power to Vice President Kamala Harris while he was sedated for the procedure, the White House said.
The colonoscopy was part of Biden's first routine physical exam as president, and took place at Walter Reed National Military Center.
"As was the case when President George W. Bush had the same procedure in 2002 and 2007, and following the process set out in the Constitution, President Biden will transfer power to the vice president for the brief period of time when he is under anesthesia," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said before the procedure. "The vice president will work from her office in the West Wing during this time."
According to the Associated Press, the president was under anesthesia for one hour and 25 minutes, during which time power was transferred to Harris. Biden is the oldest person to serve as president and will turn 79 on Saturday. According to the AP, Psaki said he resumed his duties after speaking with Harris and White House chief of staff Ron Klain at approximately 11:35 a.m.
Biden had his last physical in December 2019. That exam found him to be "healthy" and "vigorous," but noted that since 2003 he has had episodes of atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm that if left untreated increases a person's risk of stroke and heart attack, the Associated Press reported.
Biden's primary care physician, Dr. Kevin O'Connor, said at the time that the president takes a blood thinner to prevent blood clots that could lead to stroke.
Biden did have lifesaving surgery in 1988 to repair two brain aneurysms, weak bulges in arteries, one of them leaking. Biden has never had a recurrence, his doctor said, citing a test in 2014 that examined his arteries.
Harris made history during the short time she served as acting president on Friday. She is the first woman to be vice president, as well as the first person of color and person of South Asian descent.
Harris is scheduled to travel to Ohio later today after Biden resumes his duties, the AP reported. Biden is scheduled to take part this afternoon in the annual pardoning of two Thanksgiving turkeys.
Former President Donald Trump refused to go under anesthesia when he underwent a colonoscopy during his term in office, according to a book by former press secretary Stephanie Grisham.
Trump did not want to hand power over to his vice president, Mike Pence, during the 2019 procedure, Grisham wrote. He also kept the colonoscopy itself under wraps, worried that late night comedians would make fun of him.
As part of Constitutional procedure, Biden signed a letter to the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives informing them that Harris is the acting president while he is unconscious and unable to discharge his duties, the AP reported.
Biden then sent them another letter after awaking from the procedure and resuming his duties.
Visit the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases for more on colonoscopies.
SOURCE: Associated Press