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Clinton undergoes heart procedure after hospitalized with chest pains

Friday, February 12, 2010

(Photo)
Bill Clinton
NEW YORK -- Former president Bill Clinton had two stents inserted Thursday to prop open a clogged heart artery after being hospitalized with chest pains, an adviser said.

Clinton, 63, "is in good spirits and will continue to focus on the work of his foundation and Haiti's relief and long-term recovery efforts," said adviser Douglas Band.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton left Washington and headed to New York to be with her husband, who underwent the procedure at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Stents are tiny mesh scaffolds used to keep an artery open after it is unclogged in an angioplasty procedure. Doctors thread a tube through a blood vessel in the groin to a blocked artery, inflate a balloon to flatten the clog, and slide the stent into place.

That is a different treatment from what Clinton had in 2004, when clogged arteries first landed him in the hospital. He underwent quadruple bypass surgery because of four blocked arteries, some of which had squeezed almost completely shut.

Angioplasty, which usually includes placing stents, is one of the most common medical procedures done worldwide. More than half a million stents are placed each year in the United States.

With bypass or angioplasty, patients often need another procedure years down the road because arteries reclog.

"It's not unexpected" for Clinton to need another procedure now, said Dr. Clyde Yancy, cardiologist at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas and president of the American Heart Association.

The sections of arteries and veins used to create detours around the original blockages tend to develop clogs five to 10 years after a bypass, he explained. New blockages also can develop in new areas.

"This kind of disease is progressive. It's not a one-time event, so it really points out the need for constant surveillance" and treating risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, he said.

Doctors will have to watch Clinton closely for signs of excessive bleeding from the spot in the leg where doctors inserted a catheter, said Dr. Spencer King, a cardiologist at St. Joseph's Heart and Vascular Institute in Atlanta and past president of the American College of Cardiology.

Complications are rare. The death rate from non-emergency angioplasty is well under 1 percent, King said.

A White House official said the former president's condition did not come up during a meeting Thursday between President Barack Obama and the secretary of state. The afternoon meeting took place a few hours before word of Clinton's heart procedure became public.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the meeting were considered private.

Aides to Mrs. Clinton said she still plans to go ahead with a previously scheduled trip to the Persian Gulf. The trip is to begin Friday but could be delayed slightly.

The former president has been working in recent weeks to help relief efforts in Haiti. Since leaving office, he has maintained a busy schedule working on humanitarian projects through his foundation.

Clinton's legend as an unhealthy eater was sealed in 1992, when the newly minted presidential candidate took reporters on jogs to McDonald's. He liked hamburgers, steaks, french fries -- lots of them -- and was a voracious eater who could gobble an apple (core and all) in two bites and ask for more.

Two of his favorite Arkansas restaurants were known for their large portions -- a hamburger the size of a hubcap and steaks as thick as fists.

He was famously spoofed on "Saturday Night Live" as a gluttonous McDonald's customer.

Friends and family say Clinton changed his eating habits for the better after his bypass surgery.

Other than his heart ailments, Clinton has suffered only typical problems that come with aging.

In 1996, he had a precancerous lesion removed from his nose, and a year before a benign cyst was taken off his chest. Shortly after leaving office, he had a cancerous growth removed from his back. In 1997, he was fitted with hearing aids.


AP Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione reported from Milwaukee. Julie Pace, Matthew Lee and Darlene Superville contributed from Washington.


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