TOPICS > Health

Cheney May Get Pacemaker

BY Admin  June 29, 2001 at 12:00 PM EDT

Cheney, who has a history of heart trouble, said he expects the tests will lead to the implant of a pacemaker to help normalize his heart rhythms.

Cheney, 60, said he feels fine, but two weeks ago, doctors “detected some minor periods, very short periods, one to two seconds each, of rapid heart rate.”

At a press conference this morning, Cheney said he looks at the pacemaker as “an insurance policy.” He said he is confident he can continue in his position as vice president.

A history of heart disease

“I am, as everybody’s known for a long time, been living with coronary artery disease for nearly a quarter of a century now,” Cheney said. “That’s nothing new and I’d say my capacity to function in this job if the doctors ever conclude I can’t, obviously, I’d be the first to step forward and say so.”

Cheney has had four heart attacks since 1978. In 1988 he had quadruple bypass surgery to clear clogged arteries. In March of this year, doctors performed a balloon angioplasty to open a closing artery.

In a statement released by the White House, Cheney’s cardiologist Dr. Jonathan Samuel Reiner said he will undergo an electrophysiology study to determine “the vice president’s risk of developing a persistent, abnormal heart rhythm.” Depending on the outcome of that study, Cheney may have a pacemaker implanted.

A pacemaker, or implantable cardioverter defibrillator, interrupts rapid heart rhythms. “If the device detects an arrhythmia, it can terminate the abnormal rhythm with either a pacemaker function or the delivery of a low-energy electrical shock,” Reiner said.

The pacemaker is about the size of a small pager and is placed under the skin of the upper chest, he said.

Cheney said he plans to sleep at home Saturday night and return to work on Monday. The procedure does not require a general anesthetic.

Since his angioplasty surgery in March, Cheney has lost about 25 pounds and said he had complied with doctors orders, followed a strict diet and exercised regularly.