NEW YORK – Former President Bill Clinton, who underwent major surgery to clear blocked arteries six years ago, suffered chest “discomfort” Thursday and was taken to a New York hospital where doctors gave him an excellent prognosis after inserting stents in one of his coronary arteries.
Clinton’s cardiologist, Dr. Allan Schwartz, who oversaw the roughly hourlong procedure, said Clinton, 63, had been up and about and was expected to go home today. He could be back at work within days.
Schwartz emphasized that the procedure was not caused by dietary or lifestyle problems but was the result of a side effect in patients who have undergone previous bypass surgeries.
He said Clinton did not have a heart attack and his heart did not suffer any damage.
“Just as illnesses have natural histories, treatments have natural histories,” Schwartz said, adding that there is “about a 10 to 20 percent failure rate at five to six years” after the type of operation Clinton under went in 2004.
Schwartz also said Clinton’s symptoms should not be described as chest pains. Rather, he had experienced feelings of pressure and constriction in recent days. They were “brief in nature, but because they were repetitive, he contacted me,” Schwartz said during a news briefing outside New York’s Presbyterian Hospital.
Clinton, was “in good spirits” after the procedure, Schwartz said, adding that the procedure went “very smoothly.”
According to a White House official, President Barack Obama “spoke to Clinton shortly before 7 p.m. (Eastern time) and wished him a speedy recovery. … Clinton said he was feeling ‘absolutely great.’ ”
The insertion of the stents, which are used to prop open arteries, was done after consultation with Clinton’s cardiologist.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who learned of her husband’s hospitalization while in Washington, D.C., arrived at the hospital at about 7:30 p.m. The couple’s daughter, Chelsea, was also there, Schwartz said.
Aides to Hillary Clinton said she planned to take a previously scheduled trip to the Persian Gulf but would delay her departure from today until Saturday.
The insertion of stents is considered a relatively common procedure. It was a reminder of the health risks still facing the former president, who doctors said in 2004 could have suffered a major heart attack had his heart problems not been diagnosed in time.
Then, as in the latest incident, Clinton sought medical help after experiencing chest discomfort. “When it became repetitive,” Schwartz said, “he recognized that it might be a problem with his heart and that’s when he consulted me and that’s when we acted.”
The quadruple bypass surgery, which was performed at the same hospital as Thursday’s less invasive procedure, required doctors to surgically saw open Clinton’s chest and reroute blood flow around his heart’s blocked arteries. Doctors said his long-term recovery would depend on changing his diet to one with little salt and saturated fats.
Schwartz said he had done that. “He has really toed the line in terms of diet and exercise,” he said. “His prognosis is excellent.”