DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And let's turn to some other developments we're following very closely. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in a New York City hospital this morning. She is being treated for a blood clot. Now, a State Department spokesman said this stems from a concussion Clinton sustained earlier this month. The blood clot was discovered during a follow-up exam yesterday.
We're joined in the studio by two of our colleagues, NPR foreign affairs correspondent Jackie Northam and NPR science editor Rob Stein. Good morning to both of you.
JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Good morning.
ROB STEIN, BYLINE: Good morning.
GREENE: Jackie, let me start with you. What do we know right now, the latest on Secretary Clinton's condition?
NORTHAM: Well, the State Department issued the briefest of statements about this. They just said that Secretary Clinton has a blood clot and that she's being treated with anti-coagulants. It also said the doctors will monitor Secretary Clinton for at least 48 hours and assess if there is a need for any other action. As you say, the clot was discovered during a follow-up examination, just for a concussion that she sustained a couple of weeks ago.
The exam took place on a Sunday in New York, although the Clintons have a home there and their daughter lives there as well. But again, this was a very bare bones statement and it did not say where the clot is.
GREENE: Doesn't say blood clot to the brain, specifically.
NORTHAM: Absolutely not. It just says blood clot, and that's it. And, you know, but back when she was running for president, she told - Secretary Clinton told at least one newspaper that she had been treated for a blood clot behind her knee in 1998.
GREENE: What causes blood clots, Rob Stein?
STEIN: Yeah, blood clots can be caused by lots of different things. Health problems can cause a blood clot to form, like an irregular heart beat can cause it. People spending a lot of time not moving, like if they're bedridden and recovering from an illness can cause a blood clot, or people spending - taking long airplane flights are prone to getting blood clots in their legs.
Now, the key question, as you sort of alluded to, is where this clot is. If it shows up in the heart, that's when it can cause a heart attack. If it shows up in a lung, that can cause a serious life-threatening complication, and also a big fear is if a blood clot ends up in the brain, it can cause a stroke.
GREENE: Well, Rob, in general, how are blood clots treated and what do we know specifically about how Secretary Clinton is being treated?
STEIN: All they've said so far about Secretary Clinton is that she's getting anticoagulants, which is the typical treatment. These are drugs, very powerful drugs that are given primarily to keep the clot from growing or new clots from forming so that the body can dissolve the clot on its own and hopefully it'll resolve itself.
Sometimes, though, they have to take more aggressive steps like surgery, perhaps, although usually they try to treat it with drugs if they can get away with it.
GREENE: And Jackie mentioned that there was talk of another clot that Secretary Clinton had in the past. I mean, does that mean anything? That has to weighing on doctor's minds, I would imagine.
STEIN: It may or may not. It really depends on what caused that clot to form initially and sort of what precipitated this event. We do know that Secretary Clinton had been dehydrated from having this stomach illness and that is a risk factor for clots forming. She also had the concussion, which is a blow to the head, which is also potentially a cause of a blood clot.
GREENE: And this is all happening, Jackie Northam, in a moment of transition. Does this change at all the timeline of when she would step down as Secretary of State?
NORTHAM: Probably not. Not at this point. Certainly before this happened, U.S. officials at the State Department had said, you know, she's going to back to work at the end of this week. We'll see what happens there. But on the broader timeline, you know, she is expected to step down in January. You know, that doesn't mean that she's going to step out of the limelight, of course. You know, there's rampant speculation and hints that she is interested in running for president in 2016.
Hard to believe we're talking 2016. We're just two months out of the last presidential election. But you know, with this happening, her health and how much we know about it may be of some significance down the road.
GREENE: How intense is the questioning right now? Precisely for the reason that you said, Jackie Northam. This is probably the most famous woman in the world and somebody perhaps with a great political future yet ahead of her. How intense is the questioning about exactly how good or how poor her health may be right now?
NORTHAM: Oh, I think it's enormous as this point. Certainly, you know, because, again, a lot of hopes are riding on her and what she can do in 2016 and that, so when you do hear something like this, especially with not enough information at this point to go on, of course speculation is rampant, as we said. See what's going to happen.
GREENE: It sounds like a condition that, I mean we have very little information. It's not - I'm sure we'll be learning as the day goes on, but we know very little at this point, Rob Stein.
STEIN: Very little, very little. But it's important to note that blood clots are extremely common. I mean there are hundreds of thousands of them that occur every year. Most people do recover and they're fine. So it really depends on the specifics, which we have very little of right now.
GREENE: NPR's Rob Stein, NPR's Jackie Northam, thank you both so much.
NORTHAM: Thank you.
STEIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.