Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, 66, may need emergency surgery after suffering persistent hiccups for 10 days.
He has been transferred to a hospital in Sao Paulo to undergo tests for an obstructed intestine. In a tweet, Bolsonaro said he would be “back soon, God willing”.
His unrelenting hiccups have interrupted recent public appearances. On social media last Thursday, he said he’d had the hiccups for over a week and might not be able to speak properly.
On Friday, a local outlet reported he’d had to leave a dinner due to illness. Then, on Tuesday, he told supporters he was “voiceless” and that if he talks too much, the hiccups return.
It’s unclear what’s causing the hiccups, but CNN said Bolsonaro has tied it to a medication he took after dental implant surgery. The outlet also said the president has an abdominal hernia that doctors are considering surgically removing.
There have been concerns about the far-right leader’s health since he was stabbed in the intestines while campaigning in 2018. He was seriously wounded in the attack and lost 40% of his blood. He has had several operations since the stabbing.
The president was taken to the military hospital in Brasilia early on Wednesday, and doctors said then that he would be under observation for 24 to 48 hours.
But later the same day, the president’s office said Antonio Luiz Macedo, the surgeon who operated on Bolsonaro in 2018, had recommended the president be transferred to Sao Paolo for additional tests and possible surgery.
Fabio Faria, Brazil’s communication’s manager, told reporters Bolsonaro had been sedated in the morning ahead of being taken to Sao Paolo.
The president’s son Flavio told CNN Brasil that his father had undergone a procedure to remove liquid from his stomach as a precaution.
Flavio added that his father had had trouble speaking, but that if surgery were needed it should not be a serious procedure.
Bolsonaro earlier tweeted a photo of himself lying in a hospital bed, fitted with sensors and cables, with someone who appears to be a priest standing by his bedside.
After two-and-a-half years of a controversial presidency, Bolsonaro is under growing pressure over his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the beginning of the month, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest over allegations of corruption involving the purchase of vaccines.
The Brazilian leader has been heavily criticised for a lack of a national response to the crisis and his scepticism toward vaccines, lockdowns and mask-wearing requirements.
Last month, deaths with the virus in Brazil passed 500,000 – the second-highest in the world after the US.
Bolsonaro himself caught Covid-19 a year ago but has fully recovered.