Cheney Underwent Heart Surgery Last Week for Recurring Vascular Disease

Jul 14, 2010 5:14pm

ABC News' Karen Travers reports:

Former Vice President Dick Cheney underwent a procedure last week to implant a pump into his heart to treat his recurring heart disease.

"The operation went very well, and I am now recuperating," the former vice president said in a statement released this afternoon.

The surgery took place at Inova Fairfax Heart and Vascular Institute, not The George Washington University Hospital where Cheney normally is treated.

Cheney has a long history of heart problems. He has had five heart attacks, the first in 1978 when he was just 37 years old, and the fourth in November 2000, after he and former President George W. Bush were elected to the White House.

In 2001, Cheney had a pacemaker installed into his chest, and last September, he underwent elective back surgery to treat lumbar spinal stenosis.

Cheney spent three days in the hospital at the end of June for treatment for fluid retention related to his coronary artery disease.

He received IV medication and his health “markedly improved,” his office said a day after he was admitted.

Today he said that in recent weeks, it became clear that he was "entering a new phase of the disease" when he began to "experience increasing congestive heart failure."

"After a series of recent tests and discussions with my doctors, I decided to take advantage of one of the new technologies available and have a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) implanted," he said.

Cheney said the LVAD is a "small implantable pump that improves heart function" and said that the device "will enable me to resume an active life."

Cheney also was admitted to the George Washington Hospital on Feb. 22 after experiencing chest pains. His doctors later said it was a mild heart attack — his fifth. He was released on Feb 24.

That hospital stay forced the former vice president to miss a breakfast with his former boss, George W. Bush, and hundreds of former White House and campaign staffers.

That event, sponsored by the Bush-Cheney Alumni Association, was to be the first time the two met in person since they left office in January 2009.

Instead, Bush dropped by to visit Cheney at his home in Virginia on Feb. 25. Cheney and Bush, both sporting dark suits, shook hands and exchanged grins on the steps of Cheney's residence in McLean, Va., before turning to wave to the ABC News camera.

"Mr. President, welcome," began Cheney.

"Lookin' good," replied Bush.

"Holding up," said Cheney.

"Lookin' good," said Bush again.

"Could be worse," Cheney noted.

Cheney has kept himself in the public eye since leaving the White House, selectively choosing interviews and appearances to deliver stinging rebukes of the Obama Administration.

In February, he predicted that Obama will be a "one-term president." After the thwarted Christmas Day bomb plot, Cheney said that Obama was "trying to pretend we are not at war" with terrorists.

This is in stark contrast to former President Bush who has been largely invisible, living in Dallas and working on his presidential memoirs. The former president has given occasional speeches to business groups but has held his tongue when it comes to commenting on the Obama Administration.

ABC News' Kim Randolph and Jon Karl contributed to this report.

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