Pentagon chief undergoes surgery for arm injury

WASHINGTON Fri Jan 23, 2009 4:46pm EST

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates takes a question during a press conference with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen (not pictured) at the Pentagon in Washington, January 22, 2009. REUTERS/Jason Reed

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates takes a question during a press conference with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen (not pictured) at the Pentagon in Washington, January 22, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates underwent surgery on his arm on Friday and expects to be back at work next week, the Pentagon said.

Surgeons repaired a tendon in Gates' left arm, which he said he injured while trying to attach a snowplow blade to a tractor during the Christmas holidays at his home in the Pacific Northwest.

The secretary was under general anesthesia for less than two hours during the surgery at a hospital at Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters.

"Doctors described the operation as successful. He is now at home and resting comfortably and will be back in the office on Monday morning," Morrell said.

He said Gates, the only member of George W. Bush's Cabinet retained by President Barack Obama, will have to wear a splint and a sling for a week or two.

On Thursday, Gates said Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, a Bush appointee who will leave once his successor is confirmed, would be acting Pentagon chief during the surgery.

Gates is developing a history of winter weather injuries. He slipped on ice and fractured his right shoulder outside his Washington, D.C., home last year. He also wore a sling after that injury.

(Reporting by Andrew Gray)

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