Spain's king leaves hospital after hip operation

MADRID - Spain's 75-year-old King Juan Carlos left hospital Tuesday, a week after surgeons replaced his prosthetic left hip in the latest of a string of operations that have raised questions over his reign.

The king smiled and waved from a car saying he was "very well, very well, as you can see, great" as he was driven away from a private Madrid hospital.

Surgeons gave him a temporary hip joint in a two-and-a-half-hour operation on September 24 because of an infection in tissue around a previous prosthetic joint that had been fitted last November.

"His Majesty King Juan Carlos received his hospital discharge after having completed his post-operative period very satisfactorily and having achieved sufficient autonomy for daily life," said a statement by the private Quiron Hospital in the western suburbs of Madrid.

"In the next few weeks Don Juan Carlos will continue with his treatment, post-operative checkups and his planned recovery programme as an outpatient," the hospital said.

The head of state must now fight off the infection with the aid of intravenous antibiotics before undergoing yet another operation in about two months to fit a permanent replacement joint.

The latest operation was the king's eighth in just over three years, feeding speculation of a possible abdication in favour of his son Felipe, 45, despite unequivocal palace denials.

Juan Carlos is widely respected for his role in guiding Spain's transition to democracy after the death of longtime dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975 but his image has suffered in particular because of a corruption scandal implicating his youngest daughter Cristina.

Under investigation since late 2011 for alleged embezzlement of public funds, Urdangarin has appeared in court for questioning but has not been formally charged with any crime. The judge probing the case has ordered a report on Cristina's tax affairs.

The king himself sparked outrage last year for taking an expensive elephant-hunting holiday in Botswana while Spain struggled through a recession with one in four people out of work.

He broke his right hip during the trip and had to be flown home for surgery, after which he made an unprecedented public apology.

The hunting trip threw the spotlight on the royal family's deluxe lifestyle and the king's friendship with Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, a German aristocrat 28 years his junior, who reportedly accompanied him to Botswana.

Juan Carlos will now almost certainly miss appearing at Spain's national day celebrations on October 12 and the annual Iberoamerican summit of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American leaders in Panama from October 18-19.