Nov 26, 2007 7:45 pm US/Eastern
V.P. Cheney Treated For Irregular Heartbeat
Condition Found During Doctor's Examination For A Cough
WASHINGTON (CBS) ―
Doctors administered an electrical shock Monday to Vice President Dick Cheney's heart to restore it to a normal rhythm.
The procedure was declared a success and Cheney left the hospital for home.
Cheney, who has a history of heart problems, spent about 2½ hours at George Washington University Hospital after experiencing an irregular heartbeat early in the day.
The condition was detected when Cheney was seen by doctors around 7 a.m. at the White House for a lingering cough from a cold. He remained at work throughout the day, joining President Bush in meetings with Mideast leaders.
"During examination he was incidentally found to have an irregular heartbeat, which on further testing was determined to be atrial fibrillation, an abnormal rhythm involving the upper chambers of the heart," said spokeswoman Megan Mitchell.
She said Cheney went to the hospital around 5 p.m.
About 2.8 million Americans have atrial fibrillation, the most common type of irregular heartbeat, and cases are increasing as the population ages.
The condition occurs when the heart's top chambers, called the atria, get out of sync with the bottom chambers' pumping action. It is not immediately life-threatening, and the heart sometimes gets back into rhythm on its own. Many times, patients aren't aware of an episode of atrial fibrillation.
But if the irregular heartbeat continues, it eventually can cause a life-threatening complication - the formation of blood clots that can shoot to the brain and cause a stroke.
The main treatment is to try an electrical shock to restore normal heartbeat. If that doesn't work, patients may need to take the blood thinner warfarin to reduce stroke risk.
Other options include anti-arrhythmic drugs or, for severe a-fib, surgical procedures to interrupt the faulty heartbeat.
Cheney has had four heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery, two artery-clearing angioplasties and an operation to implant a defibrillator six years ago. In July he had surgery to replace the defibrillator which monitors his heartbeat.
The type of defibrillator Cheney has is used to prevent sudden death from a very different type of irregular heartbeat that starts in the bottom of the heart. The atrial fibrillation, in contrast, requires a different type of treatment.
In 2005, Cheney had six hours of surgery on his legs to repair a kind of aneurysm, a ballooning weak spot in an artery that can burst if left untreated. In March, doctors discovered that he had a deep venous thrombosis in his left lower leg. After an ultrasound in late April, doctors said the clot was slowly getting smaller.
Born in Lincoln, Neb.,Cheney attended Yale University but took his bachelor's and master's degrees in political science from the University of Wyoming. He served as chief of staff under President Gerald Ford from 1975 until 1977.
In 1978, Cheney was elected to the first of five terms in Congress from Wyoming and later was chosen as a party whip. As secretary of defense under President George H.W. Bush, Cheney oversaw the U.S. military in its first years of the post-Cold War era.
After leaving the Pentagon, he became a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. Later, he became CEO of the Dallas, Texas-based Halliburton Company, which provides services to the oil industry.
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