Nelson Mandela underwent a successful surgery to remove gallstones today, even as the 94-year-old anti-apartheid icon recovers from a lung infection. Doctors treating the former South African president waited to perform the endoscopic surgery because they wanted to first attend to his lung ailment. Mandela has been hospitalized since Dec. 8. "The procedure was successful and Madiba is recovering," said a spokesman, using Mandela's clan name as a sign of affection.
The Nobel laureate has a history of lung problems, after falling ill with tuberculosis in 1988 toward the tail-end of his 27 years in prison before his release and subsequent presidency. While doctors said at the time the disease caused no permanent damage to his lungs, medical experts say tuberculosis can cause problems years later for those infected. It's not clear yet when Mandela might be able to leave the hospital. (Read more Nelson Mandela stories.)