Bill Clinton to Have Multiple Heart Bypass

ByABC News

Sept. 3, 2004 — -- Former President Bill Clinton will undergo quadruple heart bypass surgery in New York City, ABC News has learned.

Clinton, 58, is planning to undergo the operation at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan early next week, his wife announced Friday night.

The severity of his coronary problem was discovered after an angiogram this morning at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y., a source said. His coronary results were not favorable and his heart was found to have multiple lesions, the source added.

In a statement from Clinton's office, spokeswoman Tammy Sun said he experienced symptoms Thursday.

"The former president went to Northern Westchester Hospital [Thursday] afternoon after experiencing mild chest pain and shortness of breath," Sun said. "Initial testing was normal and he spent the night at home in nearby Chappaqua, N.Y. After undergoing additional testing this morning at Westchester Medical Center, doctors advised he should undergo bypass surgery."

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., told an audience at the New York State Fair in Syracuse that her husband had planned to attend the fair until he learned he needed surgery. She instead departed to join him at the New York City hospital.

"His doctors asked him to come back early this morning for some additional tests, and as a result of those additional tests … they did advise him to have bypass surgery and to do it as soon as he could," the senator said. "He's in excellent hands and he's at one of the best hospitals in the world."

The Clintons' daughter, Chelsea, joined her parents at the hospital, Sun said.

President Bush was told about Bill Clinton's condition by his staff on Air Force One while flying from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin. He called Clinton to wish him well.

"He is in our thoughts and prayers," Bush said at a campaign rally in Milwaukee. "We send him our best wishes for a swift and speedy recovery."

Bush's Democratic challenger, John Kerry, offered his best wishes at a rally in Newark, Ohio.

"He's going to be fine," Kerry said. "But every single one of us wants to extend to him our best wishes, our prayers and our thoughts, and I want you all to let a cheer out and clap that he can hear all the way to New York."

Dr. Tim Johnson, ABC News' medical editor, said that without more information, it's hard to know how serious Clinton's situation is, but that he very well could enjoy a healthy recovery.

"It's a very routine operation," Johnson said. "He has in his favor that he's a relatively young man and in other ways appears to be in relatively good health."

Dr. Eric Topol, chairman of the cardiology department at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, said a quadruple bypass does not necessarily represent a more serious risk than a single bypass.

"Whether it's two, three or four bypasses — that really has a minimal effect," he said. "It's much more indexed as to how strong the heart is, how otherwise healthy the patent is, those sorts of things. Putting in the bypasses, that in itself is not a very limiting step or problem."

In the past, the 6-foot-2 Clinton has been an avid jogger, but also has struggled to control his fluctuating weight and cholesterol level.

A 1997 physical revealed Clinton had lowered his weight to 196 pounds, down from an unofficial high of 226 pounds in 1991, according to a published report. The physical reportedly measured his cholesterol level at 179, and his blood pressure at 122 over 68.

However, by his final presidential physical, Clinton had ballooned to 214 pounds, his cholesterol level had risen to 233, and his blood pressure was 136 over 84, The Associated Press reported. Rear Adm. E. Connie Mariano, the White House's senior physician, told the AP that Clinton would be given cholesterol-lowering medication.

"We gave him things to look at in the future, for him to work on, such as diet, such as exercise," Mariano said. "I think he'll do very well with that with the new [post-presidential] lifestyle for him."

After the physical, in January 2001, Clinton told reporters: "My cholesterol is a little too high because I haven't exercised, and I ate all that Christmas dessert. But in six months it will be back to normal. I knew I was doing it, but what the heck. It was my last time, and I wanted to enjoy it."

In 1988, Clinton told an interviewer that he had a family history of heart trouble.

Clinton, who served two terms as president, from 1993 to 2001, recently returned to the public eye. He gave a televised prime-time speech at the Democratic National Convention in July, and released My Life, his best-selling memoir, this summer.

Though he always has had bitter detractors, Clinton's popularity remains high, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. As he started a book tour in June, the poll showed his retrospective job approval rating at 62 percent, topping its average during his presidency.

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