Cheney Hospitalized for Back Surgery

Former Vice President Dick Cheney speaks at the Gerald R. Ford Foundation Journalism Awards luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, Monday, June 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) AP

Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney is having elective back surgery at a Washington hospital.

Cheney spokeswoman Lucy Tutwiler says the surgery Thursday is to deal with lumbar spinal stenosis, a common cause of lower back pain in older adults.

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal - the passage for the spinal cord - which in turn puts pressure on nerves, causing pain. Surgery is done to widen the passage and ease that pressure, typically by removing a bit of the vertebra.

Dr. Anthony Caputy, chairman of the George Washington University Hospital's neurosurgery department, is performing the operation.

Cheney is 68 years old. He has had four heart attacks.

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