Biden still fit for office despite worsening cough

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Biden still fit for office despite worsening cough

President Biden’s physician Dr. Kevin O’Connor says Biden is “fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency” despite a worsening cough caused by gastroesophageal reflux and a stiffer gait when he walks.

O’Connor released a six-page report Friday afternoon that didn’t reveal any more urgent reason for the physical, which featured a colonoscopy using anesthesia that required him to hand over presidential powers to Vice President Kamala Harris for 85 minutes.

Biden’s visit to the Walter Reed Medical Center near Washington wasn’t on his daily schedule and White House press secretary Jen Psaki pointedly declined to answer questions about when the appointment was made.

But O’Connor said his primary goals were investigating Biden’s cough and his changing walk. The colonoscopy was “reassuring” and revealed nothing of concern, he wrote, though “a single, 3 mm, benign appearing polyp was identified in the ascending colon [and] was removed without difficulty,”

President Biden smiles.
Biden turns 79 this Saturday, making him the oldest sitting president.
Bloomberg via Getty Images / Sarah Silbiger

Biden’s cough has attracted significant attention this year — forcing Psaki to frequently answer questions about whether Biden, who turns 79 on Saturday, is healthy.

“The President has experienced increasing frequency and severity of ‘throat clearing’ and coughing during speaking engagements,” the doctor wrote in his report.

O’Connor wrote that Biden underwent a variety of tests to look into the issue, which reaffirmed a prior diagnosis that the coughing was caused by stomach acid.

“There were no tumors or polyps, and his vocal cord appearance and function were normal. Tracheal, esophageal and pharyngeal epithelium did show changes associated with persistent gastroesophageal reflux,” he wrote.

The doctor wrote that Biden previously had “several sinus and nasal passage surgeries” to alleviate congestion.

A flexible fibroscopic device “directly confirmed esophageal reflux, possibly worsened by a mild hiatal hernia – which means that the opening as the esophagus (shaped like a tube) enters the stomach (shaped like a jug) is wider than usual, creating an ‘upside down funnel’, thus making it easier for the stomach acid to reflux (or ‘splash’) up into the esophagus, thus causing irritation, inflammation and most notably, mucus.”

The doctor added, “There were no signs of ulcers, cancer or any other serious condition.”

Biden stands at podium.
Biden underwent a variety of tests to look into the issue, which reaffirmed a prior diagnosis that the coughing was caused by stomach acid.
Bloomberg via Getty Images / Oliver Contreras

Aditional tests for 19 respiratory pathogens were negative, the report said.

O’Connor said his other primary focus was searching for a reason why “the President’s gait appears to be perceptibly stiffer and less fluid than it has been in the past.”

He said that Biden, who is the oldest-ever president, “does specifically acknowledge early morning stiffness that improves throughout the day.”

“A combination of significant spinal arthritis, post-fracture ‘limp and compensation’ and a mild sensory peripheral neuropathy of the feet are the explanation for the subtle gait changes which I was investigating,” O’Connor wrote.

A foot fracture that Biden said occurred last year after tugging his German shepherd Major’s tail after a shower has “healed nicely,” according to the report.

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