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Murtha remains in intensive care in Virginia hospital

U.S. Rep. John Murtha remained in intensive care this morning at a Virginia hospital after he suffered complications from recent gallbladder surgery, his office said.

Murtha, 77, was admitted to Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington yesterday. The Johnstown Democrat said last week he underwent laparoscopic surgery to remove his gallbladder after experiencing an infection in December.

A spokesman declined to give further information on Murtha's condition. His wife of nearly 55 years, Joyce, was with him at the hospital.

"I can't help but be worried about him. He is my friend and my mentor," said fellow Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle of Forest Hills. "We need him to get better, and we need him to stay here."

Doyle and Rep. Tim Murphy said Murtha, chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, often is willing to look beyond party affiliation to get work done, especially on veterans and military issues.

"My thoughts are with him and his family," said Murphy, an Upper St. Clair Republican. "I can only look forward and focus on having him back walking the halls of the Capitol."

On Friday, Murtha is set to become the state's longest-serving congressman. He was elected to the House in a special election in 1974.

Most patients experience swelling and tenderness after laparoscopic gallbladder surgery, said Dr. Anthony Ripepi, who has offices in Upper St. Clair and West Mifflin, and conducts about 300 such surgeries a year.

More serious complications can occur if doctors mistakenly nick an organ, such as the intestine, Ripepi said. That can cause an infection in the abdominal cavity, he said.

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