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Vice President Cheney Announces New Heart Complications

Aired June 29, 2001 - 09:57   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We're just now recoiling from the surprise announcement we got from the White House just moments ago, Vice President Dick Cheney announcing he's going into the hospital for another procedure on his heart.

We're joined now by our medical news correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, here in Atlanta, and our Washington bureau chief, Frank Sesno, in Washington. I want to talk to you both of you in the remaining moments that we have here about what's going to happen next.

Elizabeth, first of all, what exactly is this procedure? It's called an electrophysiology study. What's that all about?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. That's a procedure where, if doctors suspect that someone has an irregular heartbeat -- and that means that the electrical impulses that are supposed to happen aren't at times happening -- they insert a catheter through the groin into the heart, and it can pinpoint the cause of that irregular heartbeat.

Cheney revealed to reporters today that he had been put on a halter monitor. What that means is that he walked around with basically a little, portable EKG for 34 hours. Four times in those 34 hours they found that he had this arrhythmia, this irregular electrical impulse.

So they want to go in and pinpoint what the cause is, and if necessary, they can put in a pacemaker.

This is not uncommon for someone with his history. He had his first heart attack in 1978 at the age of 37. He had three more after that, and he's had quadruple bypass surgery. What's going to happen as a result of the surgery and of the heart attack is that there is scar tissue in the heart, leaving, as one doctor put it, parts of your heart kind of dead, so the heart isn't working necessarily as a healthy heart would be working. So it's not unusual to have that kind of irregular heartbeat in someone who has had procedures and heart attacks.

HARRIS: But the vice president was saying that these things may have been happening to him but he wasn't feeling anything not normal.

COHEN: That can happen. He said, as a matter of fact, that he had exercised just this morning on his bike for 30 minutes. He didn't feel a thing. He said his wife's in charge of his diet and he's been eating well. He's had no pain in his shoulder, no pain in his arm.

And as he said, this test is not urgent. It's not as if he absolutely had to have had it tomorrow. It could have been scheduled, it sounds like, many other days. So they're just going in to see what the cause of this irregular heart beat is.

HARRIS: Thanks, Elizabeth Cohen.

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