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Cardiologist: Clinton's outlook good

On the Scene:  Elizabeth Cohen

• Interactive: Coronary bypass surgery
•  Bypass surgery
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CNN's Elizabeth Cohen on President Clinton and heart surgery.
Bill Clinton

(CNN) -- Bill Clinton is an excellent candidate to make a full, quick recovery from coronary bypass surgery, a cardiologist said Friday.

The former president is scheduled to undergo surgery as early as Saturday. Emory University cardiologist Dr. Randy Martin said that he anticipates Clinton should handle the operation fine.

"While I don't know his medical information, he appears to be otherwise in good shape, he's not a smoker, he's not currently overweight, so he enters the operation in pretty good shape," Martin said. "I anticipate he would do very well."

Bypass surgery is normally required when arteries in the heart become significantly blocked and restrict the flow of blood. Fats, cholesterol and plaque in the blood build up along artery walls and restrict blood flow.

Martin said that coronary arteries become blocked because of heredity or lifestyle -- heart disease can be inherited and smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol lead to blockages over time.

A medical report in January of 2001 showed Clinton had an above-normal cholesterol level and borderline high blood pressure.

And during his presidency, Clinton had a reputation for eating fast food meals.

Since leaving office, Clinton has lost weight on the South Beach Diet and a regular exercise program.

"I work out a lot and I went on the South Beach Diet for a while, that helped, but the combination -- I have a wonderful man that comes in two or three times a week and we work out," he said at a book signing in New Orleans on Wednesday.

In a bypass, surgeons restore blood flow in blocked arteries in the heart by taking blood vessels from the patient's leg or chest and grafting them on to either side of the blockage.

More than a half-million coronary bypass surgeries are done in the U.S. each year, according to the American Heart Association.

More common than bypass surgery is angioplasty, in which a deflated balloon is fed with a catheter into the blocked artery and when inflated, compresses plaque blocking the artery against the artery wall. A "stent," or wire-mesh lining, is sometimes implanted in the artery to keep the plaque from blocking the artery again.

Bypass surgery generally takes two to four hours, Martin said, and the patient normally spends a day in a recovery room or intensive care. Recovery can take less than a week, he said.

"It's not inconceivable that he could be out in four or five days," Martin said. "We commonly do this."

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