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Democratic VP nominee Biden releases medical records

  • Story Highlights
  • According to medical records released Monday, Joe Biden's health is generally good
  • Biden had two potentially deadly aneurysms in 1988 but no recent brain issues
  • Biden suffers occasional back pain, chronic sinusitis and severe seasonal allergies
  • McCain let reporters view extensive medical files; Obama released a summary
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By Caleb Hellerman
CNN Medical Producer
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(CNN) -- Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden, 65, released his medical records Monday, detailing the treatment of two brain aneurysms in 1988 and other, mostly minor medical problems.

Sen. Joe Biden, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, at a rally last week in Pennsylvania.

Biden has had no subsequent aneurysms and has since undergone appropriate screening, according to Dr. Matthew Parker, a physician chosen by the campaign to address the news media. Said Parker: "Everything that was supposed to be done, is being done."

Parker spoke to reporters because Biden's physician, Dr. John Eisold, the official attending physician for Congress, does not discuss his patients publicly. Federal Election Commission records show Parker contributed $2,300 to Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign in the spring of 2008.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent, said that after 20 years, it's unlikely that the aneurysm history would pose a risk today. Additional aneurysms can be detected by MRI scanning, but the records released Monday do not indicate what, if any, screening has been done in the past two decades.

Biden's brush with death came two decades ago, just months after he gave up his own campaign for president. Biden, who had suffered headaches for weeks, found himself with a headache so severe that he lay down in a fetal position, then passed out for five hours. Upon awakening, he made it to a hospital, where doctors discovered a ruptured aneurysm -- a condition so severe that a priest said he was called in to administer the last rites. Video Watch Dr. Gupta explain Biden's aneurysm »

A brain aneurysm is a bulging blood vessel, which occurs when a spot in the vessel weakens and blood pressure forces it out like a balloon. A ruptured aneurysm is generally extremely painful -- many doctors say it is typically the most painful headache you'll ever experience.

About half of all ruptured aneurysms prove fatal, and many others lead to lifelong disability. Neurosurgeons at Walter Reed Hospital were able to save Biden's life by putting a metal clip on the artery to stop the bleeding. Biden also survived a blood clot that lodged in his lung as he recuperated.

Through screening, a second aneurysm was discovered a few months later and surgically removed before it burst.

Biden's Republican counterpart, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, 44, has not released any medical information. Biden's running mate, Obama, 47, has not released records either; his campaign did release a one-page summary of those records, which concluded that he is in excellent health.

The campaign of Sen. John McCain has derided Obama for running "on a doctor's note." McCain, 72, this spring offered reporters a glimpse of more than 1,100 pages of medical records, many dealing with the removal of four melanomas, or skin cancers. Like Biden, McCain did not release those records and did not allow reporters to take pictures or make photocopies.

According to the medical records released Monday, Biden's health is generally good. He suffers occasional back pain, as well as chronic sinusitis and severe seasonal allergies dating back to childhood, when asthma was diagnosed. Earlier this year, he underwent surgery to correct the sinus condition, a relatively common and minor procedure.

In 2006, he suffered an episode of atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat. He underwent a stress test -- technically known as a stress echocardiogram -- and doctors concluded that the fibrillation was a lone episode with no underlying heart disease. They chalked it up to Biden's busy lifestyle and lack of exercise. After that episode, the senator began taking aspirin as a blood thinner.

He also takes Zocor to control cholesterol, Claritin for allergies and Flomax to aid urination.

Biden's cholesterol reading is 173, with an HDL level (so-called "good" cholesterol) of 47. Both are within a healthy range.

The records also show the senator has undergone PSA screening tests for prostate cancer, with normal (healthy) results.

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The Obama-Biden campaign gave most news organizations only about 12 hours' notice that it would release Biden's medical records.

Reporters were informed Sunday night, and beginning at 12:30 p.m. Monday they had five hours to review the medical records at the Washington law office where the documents were made available.


It was also at 12:30 p.m. that the campaign made Parker available to answer journalists' questions about the records.

During Monday's telebriefing, there was an awkward moment when Parker was pressed by reporters for more details. After he said repeatedly he didn't have any more information than what was in the printed medical records, Biden's communications director, Ricki Seiden, jumped in to promise that the records would be located and released. In response to further pressure from CNN, another spokesman, David Wade, said it is likely they would be made available later on Monday.

CNN's Val Willingham and Jennifer Pifer contributed to this report.

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