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Cheney to Undergo Medical Tests

Aired June 29, 2001 - 10:39   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We are now 21 minutes away from the top of the hour and now we will check our top story. The highest levels of government are abuzz this hour over the health of Vice President Dick Cheney. Less than an hour ago, Cheney announced from the White House that he will undergo a new round of medical tests at George Washington University Hospital.

Let's go check in now with our White House correspondent Kelly Wallace, who was there for the announcement. Kelly joins us again from the White House -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Leon, as you know, this White House was widely criticized for how it handled the actions surrounding the vice president going to the hospital back in March. That's when he was suffering from some chest pains and when he had to have a stent procedure to take care of some of that blockage.

So you could say this White House taking more of a proactive approach, the vice president himself coming out before reporters to say that yes, in fact, he would be going to the hospital tomorrow, Saturday, to basically have a test and then, if the test goes according to plan, he does believe it's possible he could have implanted a pacemaker plus.

Now, the vice president, as you see there from the inauguration, plays a very, very key role for this White House. He has been leading the president's energy task force and coming up with an energy plan for this White House. He's also leading the task force to come up with some alternatives to the Kyoto global warming treaty, which the president believes is fatally flawed.

So it is an understatement to say how big of a role he plays in this White House. The vice president, though, saying that he believes he will be able to keep up his duties as vice president, although if his doctors have different advice, he will follow that advice.

But earlier he laid out exactly what will be happening when he goes to the hospital tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I go in tomorrow, the first thing we'll do is the test and assuming the test shows what we think it will show, then we'll go forward and actually implant the device as well. I would expect to return home tomorrow afternoon. It's basically an outpatient procedure. I will be sedated during the time of the procedure. But to return home tomorrow night, and I'd expect to be back at work on Monday if everything goes as planned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Now, not to delve into an area I'm not an expert on when it comes to the medical aspects here, but the vice president saying that if plans go as well as they expect, he might have implemented his pacemaker, plus basically it is a pager, according to a release from his doctors, weighing less than 80 grams and it can analyze a patient's heart rhythm.

The reason for this, the vice president a couple of weeks ago, at the advice of his doctors, was basically carrying out another test, wearing sort of a halter for about 34 hours. During that time there were four cases detected of about rapid one to two beats of rapid heart rhythm. So this would be a way for, if he has this pacemaker implemented, that it would detect any rapid heartbeat and then it would sort of send any kind of electrical shock that would take care of that.

The vice president saying, Leon, this is not at all related to back in March when he had that stent procedure. He said that procedure looks to be holding up well and at this point in time doesn't look like it needs to be replaced. But again, a lot of news here at the White House. The vice president, though, saying the risks are minimal. And Leon, he's also saying that he hasn't felt any chest pain at all and hasn't felt any symptoms and that he's been carrying out diet and exercise as per doctor's orders -- Leon.

HARRIS: He was amazingly matter of fact about the whole thing. Kelly Wallace at the White House, thanks much.

WALLACE: Absolutely.

HARRIS: And now, speaking of Cheney's health problems, they go back nearly a quarter century. He suffered his first heart attack back in 1978. Our medical news correspondent Rhonda Rowland takes a look at his medical history.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RHONDA ROWLAND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While waiting for the 2000 presidential election to be resolved, Vice President Dick Cheney suffered his fourth heart attack in 22 years. It started with chest discomfort. But to be sure, Cheney underwent the most definitive method to determine if it was a heart attack, a cardiac catheterization, also known as an angiogram.

CHENEY: We went in, did the angiogram. While they were doing the angiogram found the blockage in the branch of the LID.

ROWLAND: In an angiogram, doctors thread a small catheter from the upper leg to the heart. In Cheney's case, while doing that they found a narrowed artery so they used a tiny balloon to open the blockage then used a mesh device called a stent to keep the artery propped open. Three and a half months later, in March, the vice president checked himself into George Washington University Hospital after experiencing four episodes of very mild chest discomfort. Another catheterization found a 90 percent renarrowing in the stented artery. Doctors reopened it with balloon angioplasty.

DR. JONATHAN REINER, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: We knew in November that there would be, you know, about a 20 percent likelihood of this and this is something that we watch patients for.

ROWLAND: Several EKGs and blood tests showed Cheney did not suffer another heart attack. However, his doctors warned his arteries could renarrow again.

REINER: I would probably estimate that the risk of this narrowing returning is somewhere in the 40 percent range.

ROWLAND: Cheney was discharged from the hospital in less than a day with no restrictions.

REINER: I think there's a very high likelihood that he can finish out his term in his extremely vigorous, vigorous capacity.

ROWLAND: The vice president has been advised to watch his diet and exercise to help protect his heart.

Rhonda Rowland, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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