Cheney Having Minor Heart Procedure

Vice President Dick Cheney holds a press availability with Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the U.S. forces in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, both not pictured, in Baghdad, Iraq Wednesday, May 9, 2007. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
Vice President Dick Cheney is in the hospital Saturday for minor surgery to replace the battery that powers a device monitoring his heart rhythms.

He arrived with his wife, Lynne, in the morning for the procedure at George Washington University Hospital.

During Cheney's annual physical last month, doctors tested his implanted cardioverter-defibrillator and learned that the battery powering the device had reached a level where replacement is recommended, Megan McGinn, deputy press secretary for Cheney, said Friday.

Dr. John Kassotis, director of electrophysiology at State University of New York's Downstate Medical Center, said doctors typically use a local anesthetic on the chest and shoulder area below the collar bone. They make an incision and remove the defibrillator's generator, detaching it from wires that are connected inside the patient's heart.

"Then, they will reconnect a new battery," Kassotis said. "They will test that everything is working appropriately, then they will suture him closed. What we do is watch the patient for about an hour, make sure that they're doing fine, and send them home."

The defibrillator monitors Cheney's heart and will deliver a shock if it ever goes out of rhythm.

During his checkup in June, Cheney underwent a stress test, and doctors also checked out the defibrillator, which was implanted in June 2001. The stress test showed no blockages in his heart. Doctors also said then that his defibrillator was functioning properly and that they had not had to treat any irregular beating of the vice president's heart.

Cheney, 66, has a history of heart problems. He has had four heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery, two artery-clearing angioplasties and an operation to implant the defibrillator.

In March, doctors discovered that he had a deep venous thrombosis in his left lower leg. After an ultrasound in late April, doctors said the clot was slowly getting smaller.

In 2005, Cheney had six hours of surgery on his legs to repair a kind of aneurysm, a ballooning weak spot in an artery that can burst if left untreated.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for