MADRID (AP) - Spain's King Juan Carlos has successfully undergone hip replacement surgery after a fall caused fractures near his arthritis-affected joint, officials said Saturday. It was the monarch's fourth operation in less than two years.
The 74-year-old had surgery on his right hip almost immediately after returning from a trip to southern Africa, the palace said in a statement. A palace spokesman added the head of state had been driven straight to a hospital Friday night after flying back from a private visit to Botswana, where he had fallen.
The statement said the king had sustained "a fracture in three fragments of the right hip, associated with osteoarthritis of that joint."
Leading newspaper El Pais reported on its website that the king had been on an elephant hunting trip when the fall occurred, but the palace declined to comment, saying the visit was a private matter.
Spanish state broadcaster RTVE carried the news on its website accompanied by a photograph of the king, rifle in hand, standing next to a dead elephant while on a previous hunting trip with a Botswana-based safari company.
The king tripped on stairs around 4 a.m. (02.00 GMT) Friday, said Angel Villamor, spokesman for San Jose hospital in Madrid. He said Juan Carlos was recovering well after the operation.
The surgery was the king's fourth since May 2010. Previously, a benign tumor has been removed from one of his lungs, and in June last year he also underwent surgery on his right knee.
This is not the first time the aging monarch's love of hunting has caused concern. In October 2006, a Russian governor launched an inquiry into reports that Juan Carlos had shot and killed a bear while on holiday near Moscow.
Vyacheslav Pozgalyov, governor of the Vologda region northeast of Moscow, had reportedly received a letter from the region's deputy hunting chief, Sergei Starostin, claiming a bear _ named Mitrofan _ had been fed honey mixed with vodka before being released near a site where the king was to hunt.
Starostin wrote that the local authorities had thus turned the king's hunting trip into a "disgusting fraud," Russia's top business daily Kommersant said.
Mitrofan, whom Starostin described as "a good-natured and joyful bear," was taken from his home at a local holiday resort and brought to the hunting place where they "generously fed him with vodka mixed with honey and pushed him into a field," the newspaper quoted the letter as saying.
Also, the king's 13-year-old grandson, Felipe Juan Froilan, is currently recovering in a hospital after shooting himself in the foot accidentally with a shotgun.
The most serious shooting incident occurred in 1956 when Juan Carlos accidentally shot and killed his 14-year-old brother while handling a gun during a vacation visit to Estoril, Portugal.
The royal family has been the focus of much media attention in recent months on account of a judicial probe into whether Princess Cristina's husband, Inaki Urdangarin, used his privileged position to secure lucrative deals for a nonprofit foundation he ran, then fraudulently diverted some of the money for personal benefit.