Cheney hospitalized for heart
WASHINGTON (AP) – Vice President Dick Cheney, who has had four heart attacks, underwent an angioplasty Monday for a partially blocked artery after going to a hospital with chest pains.
The artery, which had been opened in late November, had partially reclosed, his cardiologist, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, told reporters. Reiner said there was no evidence that Cheney had suffered another heart attack.
Cheney, 60, suffered his most recent heart attack in late November but quickly resumed a full schedule after an operation to open the blocked artery.
Reiner said he did not believe Cheney had suffered any additional heart damage.
Asked for a prognosis, he said, ”There is a very high likelihood he can finish out his term in his fully vigorous capacity.”
Cheney checked himself into George Washington University Hospital, about six blocks west of the White House, after feeling chest pain briefly on two occasions on Monday after earlier episodes on Saturday and Sunday, Reiner said.
He said the episodes were ”much milder and very brief” when compared with the chest pains that Cheney suffered in November. ”The symptoms were subtle” this time, Reiner said.
Cheney attended a birthday party for Alan Greenspan Sunday night, capping a weekend in which he and his wife moved into the vice president’s residence, the U.S. Naval Observatory. They also sold their townhouse in McLean, Va.
On Monday, doctors inserted a flexible tube into the narrowed artery carrying a collapsed balloon. Once the balloon was in place, it was inflated, reopening the artery.
Reiner said there was a 40 percent risk of renarrowing of the artery.
During the procedure last November, one of Cheney’s heart arteries was 90 percent blocked, so doctors implanted a wire scaffolding-like device called a stent to push away the blockage and prop open the artery walls.
Reiner said that following such stent procedures, there always is a chance of renarrowing – and this is apparently what happened to Cheney.
Cheney was expected to spend the hospital overnight and to be released on Tuesday.
President Bush called the vice president to wish him well, said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. ”During their five minute phone call, the vice president told the president that he was feeling fine and looked forward to returning to work.”
Aides said Cheney, who was working at the White House on Monday, had told Bush in the morning that he was experiencing discomfort in his chest and planned to be examined by a doctor.
Cheney has had four heart attacks, the first when he was 37. In 1988, he had quadruple bypass surgery to clear clogged arteries.
He said that Cheney dozed off several times during the procedure, which took about an hour.
Reiner said Cheney probably could fully return to his work ”later in the week.”
Asked whether Cheney had failed to take precautions after his November heart attack, Reiner said no, that the vice president had been ”exceedingly diligent” in following both dietary and exercise recommendations, including essentially eliminating red meat from his diet.
”He has very nicely adhered to what we wanted him to do,” Reiner said.
After Cheney arrived at the hospital on Monday, he underwent a cardiac catheterization to determine what was causing the chest pains.
In that procedure, doctors insert a flexible tube into a leg vessel, and it is run from there up to the target artery supplying blood to the heart. At that point, dye is injected. The dye shows up on an X-ray or fluoroscope, enabling doctors to see the flow of blood through the artery.
When the blockage was noted, the angioplasty was performed.
Cheney is an unusually active and influential vice president. He headed Bush’s transition team, played a major role in Cabinet and top personnel selections and has helped Bush forge foreign policy as well as a national energy policy. White House officials say Cheney is the adviser Bush most relies upon to make sure his agenda is carried out.
His hospitalization came less than a week after Bush’s first address to Congress, just as Bush is trying to generate attention and support for his tax-cut plan.
In a television interview Sunday, Cheney said he felt great. ”I am well-behaved. They’ve taken control of my food supply. So I’m trying to do all those things you need do to be a responsible individual with a history of coronary artery disease and somebody who’s 60,” he told CNN.
After his last heart attack, Cheney’s doctors said his heart was moderately damaged. Other heart experts said Cheney was at higher risk for further heart attacks than the average person his age and he needed to take such protective steps as losing weight.
Cheney late in November said his blood pressure was an excellent 106 over 80. He was taking cholesterol-lowering medicine that had kept his total cholesterol level around a good 170, he said. However, he didn’t reveal levels of so-called bad cholesterol and triglycerides, more important than total cholesterol counts.
Asked if he feared another heart attack, Cheney said: ”I don’t operate that way. … I look forward to several more years.”
A few days after his November heart attack, Cheney demonstrated his back-to-business mindset when he responded to questions about his health by jumping up and down and pumping his arms.
Cheney, who has declined to release his full medical records, seemingly has lost some weight since then, but aides won’t say how much – or how much he now weighs. He exercises regularly on a treadmill and has been skipping sweets, aides said.
The Constitution requires Congress to confirm a new vice president if that office should become vacant. The 25th Amendment, ratified in 1967, has been invoked twice, when Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned in 1973 and again after President Nixon resigned in 1974, elevating Vice President Gerald Ford to the presidency.
When Agnew resigned in 1973, Nixon nominated Ford to be his vice president. Less than a year later, Nixon resigned, Ford succeeded him and designated Nelson Rockefeller as vice president.
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