Skip to main content

Russert's doctor: Medics tried to revive NBC anchor

  • Story Highlights
  • Tim Russert's doctor says he was a model patient
  • Doctor: Russert was on heart medication and exercised
  • Doctor says medics used a defibrillator three times before Russert got to hospital
  • Next Article in Health »
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Tim Russert's personal physician says medics tried to save the NBC anchor shortly after he collapsed at work.

Russert joined NBC in 1984 and established himself as the face of the network's political coverage.

Dr. Michael Newman said medics tried to revive Tim Russert several times before he died.

Dr. Michael Newman told CNN's Larry King that a defibrillator, a heart-shocking device, was used to try to save Russert. "A resuscitation was begun almost immediately," he said.

Russert, a mainstay of television journalism's political talk as the host of "Meet the Press," died of a heart attack after collapsing at NBC's Washington bureau Friday. He was 58.

Newman appeared on "Larry King Live" on Monday, along with Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiac thoracic surgeon, and Dr. P.K. Shah, King's heart doctor. Video Watch Russert's son greet guests at wake »

Newman described Russert as a model patient: "He complied with almost everything that was asked of him."

The following is an edited version of the show's transcript:

Newman: Tim had a cardiac arrest. It was related to an acute -- presumably acute dissection, rupturing plaque that's causing a blockage of a coronary artery. He had a heart attack -- a fatal arrhythmia. Video Watch panel discuss if Russert's death was preventable »

King: Did we know he had heart disease?

Newman: Tim was known to have coronary artery disease, and it was being treated with respect to management of his risk factors.

King: Was he on medication? Did he exercise? Did he watch what he ate?

Newman: Tim was on medication. I'd like to say, I'm glad you mentioned exercise and watching what we eat. The foundation of management of heart disease and every medical condition, really, starts with lifestyle modification. You know, a healthy lifestyle, and you'll have good health, and you'll certainly have a healthy heart. ...

Tim appreciated that. Yes, he exercised. He was on his Aerodyne bicycle. See a timeline of Russert's career »

King: Dr. Oz, from what Dr. Newman said, could it have been prevented?

Oz: You can never tell for sure. And the reality is a big wake-up call. And it's the question that Tim Russert would be asking right now: What are the odds that I could have done something different myself?

Let's examine it for a second. Of the 450,000 people a year who die of heart attacks in this country, probably half of them never knew they were at risk of a heart attack.

It's because the heart doesn't really have pain fibers. In fact, the only reason you ever feel any pain when you're having a heart attack is because the nerves in the heart cross other nerves -- from your chin, your arm or from the chest and the spinal column. And they short-circuit each other out. And that creates this referred pain that in cardiology and cardiosurgery we recognize to be angina.

Health Library

In association with

The other reality -- and this is a big wake-up call for a lot of Americans, as well -- is that a lot of the plaques that we have are not flow limiting. And by that I mean they don't cause a limitation on the amount of blood that courses through the veins that go to our heart. ...

King: Dr. Shah has brought along a defibrillator. Right? Dr. Newman, it was not used, is that correct?

Newman: That's not correct.

King: OK, it was used.

Newman: NBC had a defibrillator. A resuscitation was begun almost immediately. NBC had an EAD [external automated defibrillator] on site, and they were preparing to use it. At the same moment, the DC EMS, emergency medical squad, arrived, and they immediately defibrillated Tim. He had no heart rhythm. They defibrillated him. His heart was beating then in a ventricular -- fine ventricular fib, and then it deteriorated. They shocked him again. Actually, he was defibrillated three times before his arrival at Sibley Memorial Hospital. Remembering Tim Russert »

King: Why do you think it didn't work in the Russert case?

Shah: There are several possibilities. The longer the delay between the time collapse occurs and you begin defibrillation, the less the success of defibrillation. That's number one. Number two, if you're a very big-sized individual and have a large heart, the larger the heart, the harder it is to get a successful defibrillation. The bigger the heart, the more likely you are to go back into fibrillation.

King: Dr. Newman, was Tim Russert a good patient?

Newman: Tim was a great patient. Tim Russert as a patient was the Tim Russert that we all know. He complied with almost everything that was asked of him. He was well-informed, asked good questions. Tim was a good patient. Are there things all of us as patients could be better at? Sure. But Tim was a good patient.


King: Do you ever think, Dr. Newman, in retrospect, I could have done more? Should have done more?

Newman: You know, as physicians, we always hope that we can change people's lives, that we can make them feel better, live longer, that we can intervene, and that's what our role is. Unfortunately, in many instances, our hopes are not fulfilled. Absolutely, I wish Tim was alive and with us today. ... And ... patients die of heart disease or cancer; we all struggle with the fact there are limits to what we can do.

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print