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Blair 'fine' after heart scare

Blair complained about
Blair complained about "feeling under the weather."

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Tony Blair
UK politics

LONDON, England (CNN) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair is "fit and fine" after suffering a heart scare at the weekend, according to his spokesman.

The 50-year-old father of four spent five to six hours in hospital Sunday having electrical treatment to stabilize an irregular heartbeat. He was resting on Monday but would be back to work as normal on Tuesday, the official added.

"He is fit, fine, in good spirits and 100 percent recovered," the spokesman said, adding Blair would host a monthly news conference on Thursday.

"This is not a long term cardiac condition. It is relatively minor," the spokesman said. "His appetite for the job is the same today as any other day."

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw would take Blair's place on Monday in delivering a report on last week's EU summit to parliament.

CNN's European Political Editor Robin Oakley said officials were keen to scotch any talk of cutting back on Blair's heavy workload. "Health scares are always dangerous for a prime minister as they can damage his authority.

"But the message from Downing Street is that it is business as usual ... forget all about this comparatively minor thing."

Blair is thought to be fit, playing tennis and working out in the gym. He gave up smoking in 1980 and does not drink much.

It is the first time since Blair took office six-and-a-half years ago that there has been any sign of him experiencing health problems.

But he has been under enormous pressure for his decision to commit troops to military action in Iraq earlier this year, and for his domestic policies on health and education.

He has also come under fire over the government's role in the death of weapons expert David Kelly. (Related story)

However, medical specialists emphasized that heart palpitations are not necessarily caused by stress.

Dr. Kalyanam Shivkumar from the UCLA Medical Center told CNN on Monday that Blair's condition was "eminently treatable."

He added that a predisposition to abnormal heart rhythms usually existed from birth but stressful situations could contribute to their onset, although stress was by no means the only contributing factor.

Common condition

Downing Street said doctors at Hammersmith Hospital administered a cardioversion -- a process by which a heart's normal rhythm is restored.

But Nigel Lever, a cardiologist at Wellington Hospital in New Zealand, said he believed a different diagnosis should be given -- "one that is a slightly more disorganized heart beat condition."

He added that neither condition in itself was life threatening.

"Either of the two conditions are quite common and can happen with people with normal heart beats or those who have structural heart disease.

"It can be part of the aging process, which is the most common cause."

A number of possible treatments can be administered including medication, trying to avoid some of the factors that provoke the problems and in some cases specific electrical treatment such delivering electrical pulses to the heart by placing paddles or electrodes against the chest and back.

The statement did not say which procedure Blair received.

Lever added, depending on what condition the prime minister had, he did not expect it to impact on his ability to perform his job.

"It is unlikely to occur in a way that will threaten his heart ... It does not necessarily mean that he has a more serious heart disease."

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