LONDON -- Britain's Prince Philip returned to the royal family's country estate Tuesday, after a spell in the hospital undergoing treatment for a blocked coronary artery.
Philip, Queen Elizabeth II's 90-year-old husband, spent four nights in the hospital recovering from a successful coronary stent procedure. He was taken to Papworth, a specialist heart hospital in Cambridge, on Friday after complaining of chest pains.
It was the most serious health scare suffered by Philip, who is known to be active and robust. He has continued to appear at many engagements, most recently taking a 10-day tour of Australia with the queen.
For the first time in years he was forced to miss the royal family's traditional Christmas festivities, which include attending a morning church service, viewing the queen's annual Christmas broadcast together, and a shooting party on Boxing Day.
Philip did not speak to reporters as he was driven away from the hospital in a Range Rover Tuesday morning, though he smiled and waved to those gathered to film his departure.
"He is very much looking forward to rejoining his family," a Buckingham Palace statement said, adding that he also thanked the hospital staff for their care.
Philip will now return to Sandringham, the queen's huge private estate in rural Norfolk where the royal family retreats for the holiday season every year.
It is not yet clear if Philip's heart problem will cause a reduction in his plans to travel with the queen next year to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee. He is scheduled to make a series of trips to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to help her mark her 60th year on the throne.
Dr. Allen Schwartz, chief of cardiology at New York-Presbyterian, Columbia University Medical Center, said that an otherwise healthy 90-year-old could be expected to resume normal activity shortly after having a stent procedure.
"The treatment now would be aimed at three things: recuperation from the procedure, which is usually relatively minor, eliminating factors that might lead to a recurrence of the problem, with an appropriate diet and exercise program, and, depending on the type of stent, some medicine to reduce the chance of clotting," Schwartz said.
Now that Philip has been found to have coronary artery blockages, he is likely to be treated with several medications that are routinely prescribed for heart patients.
In most cases these medicines would include a daily dosage of aspirin to thin the blood, a statin to lower cholesterol, and possibly a beta-blocker and a separate medicine to control blood pressure. Philip would also be expected to have his heart function tested every six months or so to check for any changes.
Philip had already announced when he turned 90 that he intended to slow down his extremely active schedule. The Diamond Jubilee plans reflected this desire, with the queen deciding to send her children and grandchildren on grueling overseas trips to Commonwealth countries while she and her husband make less demanding trips throughout the United Kingdom.
Associated Press writer Gregory Katz contributed to this report.