Vice President Dick Cheney's Heart

By Nancy Steinbach

This is the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

Last week Vice President Dick Cheney was treated in a hospital in Washington for chest pains linked to heart disease. Mr. Cheney is sixty years old. He has suffered four heart attacks in the past twenty-three years. His latest heart attack was last November. At that time, doctors found that one artery was almost completely blocked. They placed a small metal tube device inside the artery to keep it open. The device is called a stent.

Research has shown that about twenty percent of the people who receive stents suffer chest pains about three months later. The pains result from the re-narrowing of part of the artery near the stent. This happens when the body treats the stent as a foreign object and creates scar tissue in the area. It is different from the narrowing caused by cholesterol that builds up in arteries of people suffering heart disease.

Doctors say pain following a stent placement does not mean that the heart has been damaged. It is a sign that scar tissue has blocked an area of the blood vessel.

Mr. Cheney went to the hospital March fifth after suffering chest pains. The doctors examined his heart and found a one millimeter area of narrowing at one end of the stent. The stent is about thirteen millimeters long.

The doctors opened the blocked area using a method called balloon angioplasty. They placed a long, thin tube called a catheter inside an artery in Mr. Cheney's upper leg. The catheter had a small balloon on the end. Doctors moved the catheter up to the blocked artery near his heart. Doctors then put the small balloon through the stent and filled it with air to re-open the artery. Then they removed the balloon and the catheter.

The doctors say there is about a forty percent chance that the stent area will narrow again and cause similar chest pains for Mr. Cheney in the future. If that happens, the doctors might use small amounts of radiation to re-open the artery. The use of radiation is a new treatment. It can reduce the chances that the artery will become blocked again.

Vice President Cheney returned to work two days after he was treated. Doctors believe he will be able to carry out his job as vice president.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by Nancy Steinbach.

Voice of America Special English