Critics question stent procedure for Pres. Bush
DALLAS, TX.; Aug. 6, 2013 (WPVI) -- Former President George W. Bush successfully underwent a heart procedure in Dallas on Tuesday after doctors discovered a blockage in an artery during his annual physical, Bush spokesman Freddy Ford said.
"At the recommendation of his doctors, President Bush agreed to have a stent placed to open the blockage," Ford said. "The procedure was performed successfully this morning, without complication, at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital."
Bush, 67, was expected to be discharged Wednesday and resume his normal schedule the following day.
The blockage was discovered Monday during Bush's physical at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, where the nation's 43rd president lives.
The stent procedure is done in a cardiac cath lab. Doctors thread a catheter to the blocked artery, open it and place a small mesh tube to push back cholesterol build-up in a blood vessel, and keep the vessel open.
Doctors often recommend first trying medication to treat a clogged artery. More severe blockages, particularly in several arteries, may require bypass surgery. Arteries can reclog, so patients often are put on heart-friendly diets or medication.
Cardiologist Dr. Elias Iliadis at Cooper says it is the most common heart procedure, done on more than half a million Americans a year.
But here is where the controversy starts.
Mr. Bush reportedly had a stress test during his physical that showed changes on his EKG.
Typically, stress tests aren't done unless someone is having symptoms, such as chest pain, or has other significant risk factor. Dr. Iliadis says, perhaps the former president's doctors thought his stress was the factor.
"Being ex president, he's I'm sure had significant stress during and even after his presidency," says Dr. Iliadis.
As for placing a stent, some studies show it gives a big benefit, but others say there's no evidence it. It cannot prevent a heart attack.
Dr. Steven Nissen, a respected cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic said today, "there are no benefits in placing a stent in a patient with no symptoms."
Still, all the details regarding President Bush's health have not been disclosed.
For the general public, Dr. Iliadis says use this as a reminder to do what you can to protect your heart health.
"Leading a heart healthy lifestyle is very important so watching your diet, maintaining good body weight, avoiding things you can avoid- don't smoke if you smoke," Dr. Iliadis adds.
Bush was described as being "in high spirits" and eager to return home.
"He is grateful to the skilled medical professionals who have cared for him," Ford said. "He thanks his family, friends, and fellow citizens for their prayers and well wishes. And he encourages us all to get our regular check-ups."
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that President Barack Obama was briefed on Bush's procedure and "obviously wishes him well." He didn't believe Obama and Bush had spoken, Carney said.
Bush is known as a fitness buff. In 1993, before he was elected Texas governor, he ran the Houston Marathon in a respectable 3:44.52.
While in the White House, he frequently used a quarter-mile jogging path on the south lawn. Bush was known to run about three miles four days a week, and cross-trained with swimming, free weights and an elliptical trainer. When doctors found his knees were getting damaged, he turned to mountain biking.
Since leaving office, Bush hosts and leads an annual 100-kilometer mountain bike ride with about 20 wounded military veterans. This year's ride was near Waco and his Central Texas ranch. He's also led a group of vets on bikes similarly through Texas' rugged Big Bend National Park.
But while Bush doesn't have a history of heart trouble, he has needed medical attention several times.
In May 2004, toward the end of his first term, Bush fell from his mountain bike during a 17-mile ride. He was wearing a helmet and mouthguard but sustained scrapes and scratches to his face, hand and knees. In July 2005, he crashed his bike again while on a slick pavement in Scotland and suffered some bruises and scrapes to a hand and arm.
In 2002, he briefly lost consciousness while watching a football game on TV at the White House and hit his head. The incident was blamed on him not feeling well and an improperly eaten pretzel.
In 1998 and 1999, while governor of Texas, he had two benign colonic polyps removed. In 2002, while president, he had a follow-up colonoscopy and invoked a section of the 25th Amendment temporarily transferring presidential powers to Vice President Dick Cheney. The colonoscopy showed no signs of cancer.
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