September 17, 2007
Comment: Cheney's long histories of cardiovascular disease and periodic need for urgent health care have raised the question of whether he is medically fit to serve as Vice President. Cheney sustained the first of four heart attacks in 1978, at age 37. Subsequent attacks in 1984, 1988, and 2000 have resulted in moderate contractile dysfunction of his left ventricle. He underwent four-vessel coronary artery bypass grafting in 1988, coronary artery stenting in November 2000, and urgent coronary balloon angioplasty in March 2001. As Vice President, Cheney is cared for by the White House Medical Group. Staff from the WHMG accompany the President and the Vice President while either are traveling, and make advance contact with local emergency medical services to ensure that urgent care is available immediately should it be necessary. In 2001, a Holter monitor disclosed brief episodes of (asymptomatic) ectopy. An electrophysiologic study was performed, at which Cheney was found to be inducible. An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) was therefore implanted in his left upper anterior chest. As of 2004, it has never discharged. On September 24, 2005, Cheney had an endo-vascular procedure to repair popliteal artery aneurysms bilaterally, a catheter treatment technique used in the artery behind each knee. The condition was discovered at a regular physical in July, and, while not life-threatening itself, is likely an indicator that Cheney's atherosclerotic disease is progressing despite aggressive treatment. On January 9, 2006, Cheney was taken to hospital for tests after experiencing shortness of breath. He was given heart tests and tests for retention of water (he had been retaining water due to medication he had been taking for a foot complaint) before being discharged. He was placed on a diuretic to help get rid of the fluids. On March 5, 2007, Cheney was treated for deep-vein thrombosis in his left leg at George Washington University Hospital. He was taken there after experiencing pain in his left calf. Doctors prescribed blood-thinning medication and he was allowed to return to work. Cheney occasionally requires the use of a cane for walking. This, according to Cheney, is due to a foot condition and is unrelated to his cardiovascular disease.