George W. Bush Undergoes Heart Surgery

Former President George W. Bush had heart surgery Tuesday morning, his office revealed.

According to a press release, doctors discovered a blockage in an artery in Bush's heart during the 67-year-old former president's annual physical examination at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas on Monday.

At the recommendation of his doctors, Bush agreed to have a stent placed to open the blockage and successfully completed the surgery Tuesday morning without complication at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

According to the American Heart Association, a stent is a wire mesh tube that is permanently moved into an area of an artery where there is a blockage. The stent is expanded, locked into place and forms a scaffold -- holding the artery open, allowing blood to flow freely to the heart and preventing a heart attack. 

The procedure is a fairly common one. About a million people have stents inserted worldwide each year, generally involving an overnight stay in the hospital. 

Dr. Michael Rothkopf, a cardiologist with Baylor Irving, did not treat the former president, but he has performed countless stent procedures. He says it's not that uncommon for someone as physically active as the president to have a blockage and show no symptoms.
"So, for example, you can have a 75 to 80 percent blockage which is restricting some blood flow, but it may not cause angina or chest pains, and it may not slow your performance down so that you really aren't aware of it," said Rothkopf.

Doctors usually guide a narrow tube through a blood vessel near the groin up to the heart, inflate a tiny balloon to flatten the blockage and insert the stent. Sometimes, they insert it through an artery in the wrist to lower the risk of bleeding.

After the procedure, Bush was said to be in high spirits and expected to be discharged on Wednesday.  His office said he plans to resume his schedule on Thursday. Meanwhile, the nation's 43rd president encouraged everyone to get regular check-ups.

"He is grateful to the skilled medical professionals who have cared for him," Bush spokesman Freddy Ford said. "He thanks his family, friends, and fellow citizens for their prayers and well wishes. And he encourages us all to get our regular check-ups."

His daughter, Today correspondent Jenna Bush Hager tweeted about her father's recovery:

 Bush has no previous history of heart trouble.

In May 2004, toward the end of his first term, Bush fell from his mountain bike during a 17-mile ride. He was wearing a helmet and mouthguard but sustained scrapes and scratches to his face, hand and knees. In July 2005, he crashed his bike again while on a slick pavement in Scotland and suffered some bruises and scrapes to a hand and arm.

In 2002, he briefly lost consciousness while watching a football game on TV at the White House and hit his head. The incident was blamed on him not feeling well and an improperly eaten pretzel.

In 1998 and 1999, while governor of Texas, he had two benign colonic polyps removed. In 2002, while president, he had a follow-up colonoscopy and invoked a section of the 25th Amendment temporarily transferring presidential powers to Vice President Dick Cheney. The colonoscopy showed no signs of cancer.

NBC 5's Lindsay Wilcox contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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