Vice-president Dick Cheney was hospitalized in a Washington, DC, hospital yesterday to undergo heart surgery, but his doctors say he may be ready to go back to work as early as this afternoon.
The vice president had what his staff called some mild chest discomfort yesterday and over the weekend, so he checked himself into the hospital. The diagnosis--no heart attack, but tests showed that an artery had narrowed at the spot where doctors installed a device known as a stent after his heart attack last November.
"A very discrete spot of renarrowing, the stent actually looked very nice with the exception of one spot," says Dr. Jonathan Reiner of George Washington University Hospital, "and that is the area that we redilated with a balloon."
Despite the possibility this could happen again, doctors say there's no reason Cheney shouldn't continue working.
"There's a very high likelihood that he can finish out his term in his extremely vigorous capacity," says Reiner.
The president, who knew Cheney was planning to see his doctor, told reporters there was nothing to worry about, calling it "precautionary measures."
Cheney has had four heart attacks, the most recent just over 3 months ago. But that hasn't slowed him down. He appeared Sunday on Face the Nation and told CBS's Bob Schieffer that he felt fine. Yesterday he had lunch with five reporters, including the Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes but never mentioned that he planned to go to the hospital later in the day.
"There was no reason at all to think that he was in any way sick," says Fred Barnes.
But at a time when many Americans believe George W. Bush needs a lot of help finding his way around Washington, Cheney's illness is a concern.
"He plays an enormous role. He's not in charge, but he plays an enormous role, so when he has a little heart trouble, people get pretty concerned about him," says Barnes. "More so than they would in the case of any other vice president."
In a phone call with the president last night, Cheney said he was feeling fine and looking forward to returning to work. He's expected to be out of the hospital later today.
©MMII CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed