Cheney may need pacemaker, as hospital tests detect problem


WASHINGTON, AFP and Reuters

Vice President Richard Cheney underwent hospital tests early Saturday after recently detected abnormal heart rhythms showed that he may need a “super-pacemaker” fitted.

A hospital spokeswoman confirmed that Cheney entered George Washington University Hospital here at 8:00 a.m. (1200 GMT) — the third time he has made a hospital visit since he was elected last November on the ticket with George W. Bush.

The tests on Cheney will look into recently spotted abnormal heart rhythms, and may lead to the vice president being fitted with what he describes as a “pacemaker plus” — an ICD or implantable cardioverter defibrillator.

The device monitors heart rhythms after being implanted beneath the skin and wired into the heart, then acting to correct any irregular rhythm developing.

“For somebody with my background and record with respect to coronary artery disease and previous heart attacks, there is that possibility of abnormal heartbeats,” Cheney said Friday. He underwent angioplasty in November after suffering his fourth heart attack since 1978. He had an angioplasty in March to reopen a partially blocked artery.

“I look at this as an insurance policy,” Cheney told reporters, adding that President George W. Bush had “strongly recommended” that he go forward with the procedure.

Head of the hospital’s cardiac catherization laboratory Jonathan Reiner also said Friday that Cheney’s condition “does not indicate progression of his coronary artery disease,” nor was current testing related to Cheney’s previous coronary stenting, the specialist added.

Saturday’s electro-physiology study is a follow-up from an electrocardiogram test Cheney underwent two weeks ago that showed up four brief instances in a 34-hour period of abnormal heartbeats.

The surgery could take another hour and a half. Doctors expected to brief reporters at midday.

Cheney, who under President George W. Bush has been given more influence that most vice presidents, said on Friday doctors told him there was “no reason” he could not continue to function normally in the nation’s second highest job.

“I have no long-term doubts. The doctors have assured me that there is no reason why either the procedure or the device that is being implanted should in any way inhibit my capacity to function as vice president,” he said.

He and his aides were also optimistic that he would be released from the hospital on Saturday afternoon and resume a normal work schedule on Monday. He plans to leave on Thursday for his home state of Wyoming for a long weekend.

Cheney decided to have the tests after a Holter electrocardiogram monitor that he wore for 34 hours turned up four separate episodes, 1 to 2 seconds each, of abnormally fast heartbeats.