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Cheney goes home after heart device implant

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney walked out of the hospital Saturday hours after having a heart monitor device implanted to keep track of his heart rhythm and slow it down if necessary.

The vice president left George Washington University Hospital at 3:19 p.m., accompanied by his wife, Lynne, and daughter Liz. Asked how he felt, he said, "Real good, sore shoulder, good shape."

Holding his left arm stiffly near his torso, he waved with his right hand to onlookers, then sat in the rear of a Cadillac and was driven home to the vice president's residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory.

He will spend the Fourth of July in Washington and then head to his home state of Wyoming later in the week, spokeswoman Juleanna Glover Weiss said.

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Doctors at George Washington University Hospital described his prognosis as "terrific" and said that Cheney, who has suffered four heart attacks in the past 25 years, could return to work Monday.

Described as "feeling great" by Glover Weiss, Cheney spent the hours after the procedure in a hospital room with his wife and daughter Liz.

The vice president talked to President George W. Bush by phone for a few minutes, ate lunch and watched the press conference that his medical team held on television.

Cheney's doctors said the procedure began with an electrophysiology study (EPS) to determine the vice president's risk of developing arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat. After the test, the doctors implanted an ICD, or implantable cardioverter defibrillator. The vice president was never fully anesthetized, and the entire procedure took a little more than 90 minutes.

An ICD is a battery-operated device surgically implanted into the body, usually at the chest or abdomen. It constantly watches the body's heart rhythm and delivers a brief electric current to the heart if necessary to adjust the pacing.

But it may never be needed. "This really is an insurance policy for him," said Dr. Jonathan Reiner, Cheney's personal cardiologist and head of the hospital's cardiac catheterization lab. "It's very likely he'll never even use this device."

"The devices enormously reduce the mortality and risk of sudden cardiac death" in at-risk patients, Reiner said.

If it detects a severe arrhythmia, the device is designed to shock the heart, causing it to revert to normal rhythm. "Many patients feel sort of a pop," Reiner said. "It's really much less dramatic than in the movies. His hair is not going to stand on end. He'll feel a little pop in his chest.

"It's really almost like having a cardiologist implanted in your chest 24 hours a day."

Cheney, 60, has a 23-year history of heart problems. At a news conference Friday, Cheney emphasized his latest medical treatment would not affect his ability to serve as vice president, and he said the risks were minimal.

The decision to undergo Saturday's test was made after doctors recorded four episodes of abnormal heart rhythms the weekend of June 17. Cheney was wearing a harness device, known as a Holter ECG monitor, and the four episodes were detected over 34 hours, Glover Weiss said.

Cheney's schedule for Monday remains the same, Glover Weiss said. It includes security briefings with Bush and radio interviews to promote the president's energy plan.

• American Heart Association National Center
• MEDLINEplus: Heart Attack

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