Four arteries that supply oxygen to his heart were found to be blocked, some as much as 90 percent, said doctors at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. Without the surgery, he probably would have had a heart attack in the near future, they said, according to the Washington Post.
Clinton was removed from his respirator Monday night — a crucial step in his recovery, Dr. Bob Kelly, a member of Clinton’s surgery team, said Tuesday on NBC’s Today show.
“Everything is going very well,” said Kelly. “That being said, the president has had major, major surgery, and it’s a significant recuperation that he’s about to undergo.”
Surgeons used a leg vein and arteries from Clinton’s chest as detours around the former president’s clogged arteries in a four-hour operation they described as routine. They said Monday that it was too early to tell whether Clinton, who is 58 years old, might have any cognitive problems as a result of the surgery.
Clinton spent Sunday evening with his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and daughter Chelsea.
“These past few days have been quite an emotional roller coaster for us. As so many families know, open-heart surgery, though increasingly common, is a very serious procedure,” Senator Clinton said in a statement read on her behalf Monday. “The president’s optimism and faith will carry him through the difficult months and weeks ahead. Of that we have no doubt.”
Bypass surgery is performed on more than 300,000 people in the United States each year, according to government statistics from 2001, the most recent year for which data is available, Bloomberg news reported.
Craig Smith, the chief of cardiothoracic surgery at the hospital, who performed the operation, said Monday that Clinton could leave the hospital in four to five days. Patients generally feel about 70 percent recovered from the operation after six weeks and back to 100 percent after two to three months, Smith said.
Clinton had been stumping for Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Clinton spoke with Kerry on the telephone for 90 minutes Saturday, advising him about the campaign, the New York Times reported.
President Bush wished Clinton well at a campaign rally in Poplar Bluff, Mo. “His surgery went well, which is good news, and we just pray for a speedy recovery for the former president,” Mr. Bush said.