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Bob Dole to undergo surgery to correct enlarged aorta

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former presidential candidate and Senate leader Bob Dole will enter the Cleveland Clinic Wednesday for surgery to repair an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

A spokesman for the 77-year-old Kansas Republican said Dole was diagnosed with the condition three years ago. Doctors monitored him and have determined it's now time for surgery to correct it.

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is an abnormal widening of the abdominal portion of the aorta, the major artery from the heart. It can be caused by injury, infection or a congenital weakening of the connective tissue of the artery wall.

The condition can lead to hardening of the arteries and high blood pressure, and if left untreated, possible complications include an aortic rupture -- fatal to 15,000 Americans each year -- bleeding from the aorta, kidney damage or heart attack.

A spokesman for the Cleveland Clinic said Dole will undergo an endographic stent placement Wednesday morning, in which a stent will be placed in the aorta to divert blood flow away from the aneurysm.

Dole's spokesman said the former senator's wife, Elizabeth, and his daughter, Robin, will be with him.

Dole, who was in his office Tuesday, is expected to be released from the hospital Saturday. His spokesman predicted Dole would need one or two weeks to recuperate after the surgery.

Dole served in World War II as a combat infantry officer and was wounded twice. He was first elected to Congress as a representative from Kansas in 1961, and served there until elected to the Senate in 1968, where he served two separate stints as Majority Leader.

President Gerald Ford picked Dole as his vice presidential running mate in 1976, but the GOP ticket lost to Jimmy Carter.

He ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988 and was the GOP standard bearer in 1996, when he resigned his Senate seat to challenge President Bill Clinton, and lost. His wife, former president of the American Red Cross who held cabinet jobs in GOP administrations, ran briefly for president in the 2000 GOP primaries.

In recent years, Bob Dole has served as a spokesman for Viagra, a drug that treats erectile dysfunction, and has undergone treatment for prostate cancer.

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