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Ashcroft back at work after gallbladder surgery

From Terry Frieden
CNN Washington Bureau

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Interactive: How gallstones cause pancreatitis
FACT BOX
  • Pancreatitis often is caused by gallstones leaving the gallbladder and lodging near and obstructing the pancreatic duct.
  • Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, high fever, difficulty breathing and abdominal bruises from internal bleeding.

    Source: MayoClinic.com
  • HEALTH LIBRARY
    Mayo Clinic
    YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS
    John Ashcroft
    Justice Department

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft returned to work Wednesday for the first time since undergoing gallbladder surgery, Justice Department aides said.

    The nation's top law enforcement officer has no public events on his schedule.

    Deputy Attorney General James Comey covered Ashcroft's responsibilities while he was out with surgery. In a Justice Department statement, Ashcroft thanked Comey and everyone who offered "prayers and expressions of support for my family and me over the past few weeks."

    "As I begin to shoulder the responsibility of leading the Department of Justice, I am inspired by the opportunity to work for freedom and the rule of law," Ashcroft said.

    The attorney general was admitted March 4 to George Washington University Hospital after complaining of considerable pain. He was diagnosed with a severe case of gallstone pancreatitis and had surgery to remove his gallbladder five days later.

    Ashcroft went home from the Washington hospital March 14.

    His surgeon, Dr. Bruce Abell, told reporters the procedure went as planned. But he described the situation as a "pretty severe" incident, saying he would continue to monitor Ashcroft during his convalescence.

    Gallstone pancreatitis is a condition in which a gallstone blocks a duct of the pancreas, a gland that produces enzymes that aid in the digestion of food. With the enzymes trapped inside the pancreas, the gland becomes inflamed, causing excruciating pain.

    Bile -- produced in the liver -- is stored in the gallbladder and aids in the digestion of fats in the small intestine. Gallstones are composed of cholesterol and bile salts.


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