Dick Cheney recuperating from heart surgery

Vice President Dick Cheney waves as he leaves George Washington University hospital in Washington on Saturday, July 28, 2007, after minor surgery to replace the battery that powers a device monitoring his heart rhythms.

Associated Press

Vice President Dick Cheney waves as he leaves George Washington University hospital in Washington on Saturday, July 28, 2007, after minor surgery to replace the battery that powers a device monitoring his heart rhythms.

— Former Vice President Dick Cheney announced Wednesday that he has undergone surgery to install a small pump to help his heart work, as the 69-year-old enters a new phase of what he called "increasing congestive heart failure."

"The operation went very well and I am now recuperating," Cheney said in a statement released by his office. The surgery took place last week at Inova Fairfax Heart and Vascular Institute in northern Virginia, where Cheney said he is currently receiving care.

A longtime face of the Republican Party, Cheney has dealt with heart problems much of his adult life, suffering five heart attacks since age 37. He said the latest step, the implanting of a pump called a left ventricular assist device, will allow him to resume an active life.

The kind of heart pump that Cheney received can be implanted next to the heart to help its main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, pump blood through the body. Such devices are used mainly for short periods, to buy potential transplant candidates time as they await a donor organ.

But they are being studied for use as a permanent therapy for people with severe heart failure who aren't transplant candidates.

About 5 million Americans have congestive heart failure, where the heart weakens over time — often as a result of heart attacks — and cannot pump enough blood. Heart transplants are one solution, but few patients find a donor and many are too old or sick for a transplant.

Cheney said a few weeks ago it became clear he was "entering a new phase of the disease when I began to experience increasing congestive heart failure."

Late last month, Cheney was admitted to George Washington University Hospital for a few days after reporting he was not feeling well. In that episode, he ultimately received medication to treat a fluid buildup related to his aggressive form of heart disease.

On Wednesday, Cheney said that after testing and consultation with doctors, he underwent surgery last week to install the heart pump. The former vice president offered thanks to those who have kept him and his family in their thoughts.

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