Jan. 2, 2013 at 6:49 PM ET
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton left a New York City hospital on Wednesday after being treated for a rare blood clot in her head, the State department said. Staffers said she has been communicating by phone and doctors said she is expected to make a full recovery.
"Secretary Clinton was discharged from the hospital this evening,' her spokesman, Philippe Reines, said in a statement. "Her medical team advised her that she is making good progress on all fronts, and they are confident she will make a full recovery."
Clinton, who fainted and hit her head in December, probably developed the blood clot as a result of the injury, doctors say. It’s in an unusual place -- in a large vein that drains blood from the brain, and that sits on a covering of the brain called the dura, right beneath her skull.
“This is in a weird space,” NBC News medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman told TODAY on Wednesday.
Clinton hadn’t been seen since she made an appearance Dec. 7 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her spokesman said she had a stomach virus, became dehydrated and fainted, suffering a concussion.
“She fainted, she clunked her head,” Snyderman said. Perhaps that caused a tiny tear in the vein, known medically as the right transverse sinus. Blood would have leaked out, pooled and clotted. But she did not suffer any debilitating symptoms, spokespeople said.
"She has been talking to her staff, including today," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told NBC News earlier Wednesday. "She's been quite active on the phone with all of us."
But Nuland said that on Saturday, before Clinton's blood clot was discovered, she called Joint Special Envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and the prime minister of Qatar.
Nuland said Brahimi briefed Clinton on his recent visit to Syria and his meeting with President Bashar al-Assad. Clinton also discussed Syria, the Palestinian Authority and Afghanistan with the prime minister.
"So she has begun to pick up her regular phone contact with some of her counterparts," Nuland said. And Reines said she was planning to get back to work. "She's eager to get back to the office, and we will keep you updated on her schedule as it becomes clearer in the coming days," he said.
Clinton's concussion is a potentially serious condition that can cause a stroke, but doctors found the clot when they did an MRI scan Sunday.
“It did not result in a stroke, or neurological damage,” Dr. Lisa Bardack of Mt. Kisco Medical Group in New York and Dr. Gigi El-Bayoumi of George Washington University said in a joint statement released Monday.
“To help dissolve this clot, her medical team began treating the secretary with blood thinners. She will be released once the medication dose has been established.”
This is a standard and safe therapy for such a blood clot, according to a review published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2005. Dr. Jan Stam of the University of Amsterdam said the clots are rare – affecting 3 to 4 people out of a million every year. Some doctors fear that blood thinners for a clot near the brain could be dangerous, but it’s the best way to dissolve the clot. “More than 80 percent of all patients now have a good neurologic outcome,” Stam wrote.
It’s also likely Clinton, who is 65, had a headache that could have tipped doctors to a potential problem -- 90 percent of people who develop these clots have headaches, he said.
The statement from Bardack and El-Bayoumi put an end to grumblings that Clinton was feigning illness to escape testifying about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Beghazi, Libya in which the ambassador and three other Americans were killed. Clinton had been expected to testify on Dec. 20 before the House of Representatives and Senate foreign affairs committees.
“When you don’t want to go to a meeting or conference or an event you have a ‘diplomatic illness.’ And this is a diplomatic illness to beat the band,” former United Nations ambassador John Bolton told Fox News on Dec. 17.
But many of her critics were wishing Clinton well this week. “A full recovery is what’s important now,” the New York Post wrote in a commentary.
In nearly four years of office, Clinton has traveled just shy of a million miles, visiting 112 countries. She’s considered a possible Democratic candidate for president in 2016. She had a blood clot in her leg in 1998, when she was first lady, and took blood-thinning drugs for several months.