Bill Clinton Hospitalized for Routine Stent Surgery; Stress May Have Triggered Chest Pain

PHOTO U.S. President Bill Clinton, shown in this file photo, was admitted to New York Presbyterian Hospital Feb. 11, 2010, after experiencing chest discomfort.

Cardiac specialists say that former President Bill Clinton, who had stent surgery this afternoon at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital after complaining about heart pains, will likely have a full recovery.

Clinton, who is 63, had quadruple bypass surgery at the same hospital in 2004 after angiography revealed significant blockages in four coronary arteries.

Six months later, Clinton had surgery to remove fluid and scar tissue from his left chest cavity.

"It's not all that unusual six years out from bypass surgery to require such a procedure," said Dr. Jon Resar, director of the Adult Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland.

VIDEO: The former president is having two stents placed in a coronary artery.
Bill Clinton Heart Issue Not Life Threatening

Stent surgery is a "minimal" and fairly routine procedure that is done when the patient is awake under "twilight" sedation, said Resar, an interventional cardiologist. Clinton was most likely "relaxed and conversing with the [medical] team members."

Dr. Mark Apfelbaum and Dr. Michael Collins did the stent procedure on Clinton.

"This will hopefully permanently deal with the blockage," Resar told ABCNews.com.

"Across the board, there is an 80 to 90 percent chance this deals with the problem permanently," he said.

Clinton, known for his rigorous schedule -- "20 hours a day for 20 years," according to sources close to the former president -- just returned from a day trip to Haiti as part of his work as a United Nations special envoy to the earthquake-ravaged country.

"As we know, Clinton changed his diet and was on cholesterol-lowering medication," said Resar. "But stress does play a role. But blockages in these bypass grafts can occur despite the fact that someone makes dramatic changes in their lifestyle and does all the right things."

Though Clinton has been under increased stress in Haiti, it may have "brought it to the surface, but didn't precipitate" the event, he said.

He was taken to the hospital today after "feeling discomfort in his chest," and had two stents placed in one of his coronary arteries, according to a statement from Douglas Band, counselor to the former president.

What a Stent Procedure Means for Clinton

A stent is a small wire mesh tube that is inserted into an artery in order to prop it open, like a miniature scaffold. Surgeons use stents to improve blood flow to the heart muscle and relieve symptoms such as the chest pain that Clinton experienced. The procedure to place a stent is considered minimally invasive, as surgeons do not have to open up the patient's chest cavity in order to put it in.

Instead, doctors collapse the stent and fit it onto what is known as a balloon catheter -- a flexible tube with a balloon at the end which is threaded into the blocked artery. Once the stent is in position, doctors inflate the balloon, which causes the stent to expand and lock into place, propping the artery open.

Most of the stents that are used today are known as drug-eluting stents. As the name implies, these stents leach a drug into the artery in which they are placed in order to prevent it from closing back up.

Once a surgeon puts it in place, the stent is a permanent addition to the artery. In a matter of weeks, the inside lining of the artery grows over the metal surface of the stent.

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