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Dick Cheney's Initial Medical Tests Show Encouraging Results

Aired November 22, 2000 - 11:12 a.m. ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Now we're going to go to the nation's capitol at George Washington University Hospital, where CNN's Eileen O'Connor is standing by with the latest on his condition.

What do you have for us, Eileen?

EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm here at George Washington Hospital and I'm being told by officials here, and also by a spokesperson for the Bush campaign that Secretary Cheney has been officially admitted into the hospital. But, basically, the Bush campaign said that it was a request that there should be a -- we should be getting a briefing sometime soon -- that, basically, he was requested to stay at the hospital for more tests and observations.

Now, what we do know, Kyra, is that he's already had some blood tests taken and also an EKG and both of those turned out to be normal. What the doctors were looking for were higher enzymes in his blood. If there is a heart attack, then those enzymes would be higher as the heart muscle was damaged it releases these kinds of enzymes. So that's good news at least. And we're also being told, of course, that -- let me go to this press conference right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not going to brief. I just want to thank you for your patience. We do expect, within the next hour or so, to have a briefing with the doctors. That's all I can tell you right now.

But I just wanted to give you a heads-up. I will give you a 15- minute warning. Are all your power issues and everything else resolved? Is there anything else I need to address on that front?

O'CONNOR: That technical briefing telling us exactly when there will be a briefing.

They're -- obviously this is a little bit more about the technicalities of the briefing that we are expecting. As I said, the Bush campaign has said that he is resting comfortably, he is no longer in pain. He came to the hospital a little after 5:00 this morning complaining of discomfort, the bush campaign says, in his chest and in his shoulder area.

Now, this does not rule out perhaps, angina; but so far, as I said, those blood tests seemingly ruling out a heart attack. We are also being told by the campaign that Governor Bush has also spoken with Secretary Cheney this morning, and that both men were in good spirits. As you know also, the Gore campaign has said -- expressed their concern and they've said that their thoughts and prayers are with Governor Bush and also with Secretary Cheney's family -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Eileen, you mentioned that Cheney did have a cardiac enzyme test; and how did that come through? Because if, indeed, that did not turn out well, it could mean he did, for sure, have a heart attack, correct?

O'CONNOR: Yes; we are being told that those enzyme levels were normal. But one of the reasons that they're keeping him in the hospital and have admitted him is that they will keep those blood tests ongoing and they will be also monitoring the EKG. So, usually those enzyme tests -- they continue for about 16 to 20 hours.

And, as we've talked about, you know, Secretary Cheney does have a history of serious heart ailments, so this is something they're obviously going to be watching -- he had a coronary bypass in 1988. The life span for that -- such a thing, bypass, is usually 10 to 15 years. So he's well within the window for, perhaps, a blockage to reappear there -- Kyra?

PHILLIPS: All right; Eileen O'Connor with the latest from George Washington University Hospital, thank you.

And just to remind you, about 11:45 we're hoping to hear from George W. Bush. We will take you live to his press conference with his reaction to Dick Cheney's condition.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, at this moment now we've got a full house as you see here on the set.

We're joined here on the set by CNN medical news correspondent Rhonda Rowland and also by Dr. Randy Martin, who's a cardiologist.

Thank you for coming in...


HARRIS: ... to add some more to this picture that we're getting about what's happening in Washington.

First of all, Rhonda, is there anything you can add to what Eileen reported just now?

RHONDA ROWLAND, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, just to kind of recap, Secretary Cheney has a long history with heart disease. It's 22 years now that he's been dealing with this. He had his first heart attack at age 37. Over the next decade he had two more heart attacks; he had that quadruple heart bypass surgery 12 years ago. But at that time, in the late 1980s, doctors gave him a clean bill of health when he was undergoing his confirmation hearings for defense secretary.

This past summer he got another clean bill of health when he joined the Bush ticket. So then that brings us now to today and what we're trying to find out.

HARRIS: All right; well, doctor, you tell us: What would these doctors in Washington right now be trying to find out and how would they go about it?

MARTIN: Well, I mean, first of all, Mr. Cheney did the right thing of going to the hospital. We always tell patients that if they're having any chest pain, especially a 59-year-old gentleman, to go to the hospital. What they would have done is, when he first got to the hospital, taken a history from him because the nature of his chest pain, whether it was here and going to his shoulder or his jaw would tell them a lot.

Do the EKG and the enzymes because that would show you right away whether he'd had any damage. Then they would, most likely, admit him to the CCU or the ICU just to monitor his progress. And if it's true that his first sets of enzymes are negative, that's a very good sign. Doesn't mean that this was not heart-related, but it's a very good sign.

PHILLIPS: The fact that he had pain in his heart and his shoulder could mean what other problems, if not heart related?

MARTIN: There could be many things that can give somebody chest pain, or even chest and shoulder pain. We worry about reflux of acid, gastroesophogeal reflux disease big time; certainly any arthritic conditions; there are some rare, serious, situations where there's a tear in the inner lining of the great blood vessel called the aorta. But I think that, you know, in this gentleman, with this history of chest pain and heart disease, the onus is really to rule out that this is not further narrowing of some of his arteries.

ROWLAND: And Dr. Martin, if it is further narrowing, would he, necessarily, have to go in and have another bypass at this time, or could doctors, perhaps, do something else, like angioplasty?

ROWLAND: Absolutely, Rhonda. What they'll do is that they will assess the function of his heart -- is his heart functioning as it was before this event? And if it is, then they would probably do a heart catheterization to see if it's blocked. If there was some blockage there then they might do the angioplasty with the little stent to open the vessel. But if it was serious enough, then they could consider doing another bypass...

HARRIS: Well they -- I'm sorry to interrupt you -- but I want you to point that out for us on the model that you brought in.

MARTIN: Absolutely; I mean this -- you know, the heart is a marvelous organ and, basically, what it does is it's got these little arteries that are feeding it. It needs oxygen at all times. And we know now that most heart attacks and most angina occurs when those arteries are not totally blocked but have little plaques in them that we call "vulnerable plaques," that tend to rupture. Interestingly, these things tend to rupture more under times of stress, early a.m. hours when your heart rate and blood pressure is going up.

But, if needed, then the bypasses are done; and it depends upon the type of bypass that he had done.

ROWLAND: Well -- and also that's a good point. A quadruple bypass operation sounds very big. Does he have other veins that could be used as grafts for another bypass operation?

MARTIN: Absolutely; good question, Rhonda. What, basically, we think, and I don't know this for a fact, that he had the internal mammary artery done, which has a very good longevity for one of the arteries. But if they need to do it again, certainly they have other veins; and there's actually an artery in the arm that they can used called a radial artery. We know that arteries last longer as bypass conduits than the veins do, so he has many options.

ROWLAND: Well, what about just the role of stress? He's been under a great deal of stress; could that be playing a role.

HARRIS: That's exactly the point I was going to bring up, and ask about that because that's one of the first questions that has popped up in people's minds, and the difference between that kind of stress and physical stress.

MARTIN: I mean, you know, he's been -- I would say a campaign, under any circumstances is bad, but this is incredible. Certainly stress has a lot to do with this; and we know that, basically, stress and especially emotional stress can raise your heart rate and blood pressure, can actually make your little blood platelets, which are something that start the clotting process more sticky.

Stress is very important. He's been on, I'm sure, on excellent medication. The stress, clearly, and his, probably, lack of his regular routine may have played a role.

HARRIS: Well we're going to have to go, we've got a couple of other things we have to get to this morning. Dr. Randy Martin, thank you very much. Rhonda Rowland, thank you once again, appreciate it.



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