No Heart Disease for Rush Limbaugh

Radio host says there is nothing wrong with U.S. hospitals.

December 31, 2009, 7:11 AM

Jan. 1, 2010— -- Rush Limbaugh ended his unaccustomed silence and announced today that medical tests have revealed "no heart disease whatsoever" and that he is doing fine.

He was discharged from the hospital on Friday morning local time, according to a statement released by Limbaugh's show.

Limbaugh, who made no public statements during his two days in the hospital, added that he is "grateful that this happened as it did."

Limbaugh was admitted to Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu on Wednesday afternoon after he experienced chest pains while vacationing in Hawaii. According to Limbaugh, doctors could not determine the exact cause of his pain.

The right-wing talk radio king used the moment for a political shot at President Obama's massive effort to reform health care, saying he got the best medical care "right here in the United States of America."

"I don't think there's one thing wrong with the United States health system," he said.

Cardiologists not involved in the case said that while questions about the underlying cause of Limbaugh's pain remain, the test results are good news for the 58-year-old radio show host.

According to Limbaugh, among these tests was an imaging procedure known as an angiogram -- what doctors consider to be the "gold standard" when it comes to detecting blocked arteries in the heart.

Dr. Richard Page, chair of medicine at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and president of the Heart Rhythm Society, said that a clear angiogram would allow doctors to conclude that the chest pain that Limbaugh experienced was most likely not from a heart attack.

"This is certainly reassuring in terms of his prognosis," Page said, adding that the results of the test and the others that likely were performed would usually only be available within 12 to 24 hours after they were conducted.

But despite the good news from the test results, cardiology experts said the episode should serve as a red flag to Limbaugh to ensure that he is living a heart-healthy lifestyle -- particularly because doctors treated his case with the real possibility of a major heart problem in mind.

"The right message here is that Mr. Limbaugh has had a wake-up call," said Dr. Clyde Yancy, president of the American Heart Association. "Nobody is out of the woods just because they've had a negative angiogram."

Dr. Deepak Bhatt, chief of cardiology for the VA Boston Healthcare System, agreed Limbaugh would do well to view the episode as a reminder to practice healthy lifestyle habits.

"The future risk of a heart attack is low given the findings on the angiogram, but certainly not zero," Bhatt said. "So, it would still be important to control risk factors; otherwise, more significant plaque could build up over time and cause problems down the road."

Dr. Douglas Zipes, editor-in-chief of the journal HeartRhythm, agreed.

"Is he out of the woods? For a major [heart attack], probably, for now," Zipes said. "But not necessarily for future heart risk, since he could have minimal obstructions not seen that could 'blossom' in the future without proper risk modification."

And Dr. Harlan Krumholz, cardiologist and associate professor of medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., said that while the tests were good news, the results could not be used to completely rule out heart disease.

"The story on clean coronaries is a little more complicated, as some people can have ischemic heart disease -- decreased blood flow to the heart muscle -- even with no blockages in the arteries that are seen on the angiogram," he said.

Details on Limbaugh's Condition Scarce for Days

Both the hospital and Limbaugh's camp had remained mum on his condition throughout the day on Friday, one day after a spate of statements and press releases said he was "resting comfortably" and undergoing a battery of tests.

Many fans called into his show today to wish Limbaugh well, according to The Associated Press. They were asked simply to say "ditto," a favorite Limbaugh phrase, to keep the show moving.

As of Thursday, doctors were still trying to determine the source chest pains that sent Limbaugh to the hospital while on vacation in Hawaii.

Walter E. Williams substituted for Limbaugh on Thursday and said Limbaugh went to the hospital because of chest pains.

"Those pains were the kind of pains that make one feel like he has a heart attack coming on but it has not been confirmed that is a heart attack," Williams said.

Cardiologists said that there are many other possible culprits for the chest pains that sent him to the hospital.

"There are ... dozens of other potential causes of chest pain, most of which are not life-threatening," Bhatt said. "Common masqueraders include musculoskeletal pains, acid reflux and other digestive disorders like ulcers, and stress."

Limbaugh had been scheduled to return to his talk show Jan. 4, but a spokesman told ABC News that it is unclear whether he will be back by then.

Paramedics arrived at the Kahala Hotel and Resort at 2:41 p.m. Wednesday and found Limbaugh, 58, sitting in a chair in his ninth-floor hotel room, according to ABC's Honolulu affiliate KITV.

Limbaugh told emergency workers he was taking medication for a back problem, sources said. However, at Friday's press conference Limbaugh denied that he had been taking the medications. He declined to answer further questions.

Limbaugh was treated at the hotel before being transferred to the hospital.

While in Hawaii on vacation over the holidays, Limbaugh had been seen golfing at the Waialae Country Club, according to KITV.

Rush Limbaugh: Career of Controversy

Limbaugh has been a polarizing figure in U.S. politics, once asking, "What is so wrong with saying I want Barack Obama to fail?"

But he made headlines in 2003 by admitted an addiction to painkillers after reports claimed he was illegally obtaining narcotics. He settled the charges against him in a plea deal that included a $30,000 fine. He entered a drug rehabilitation program.

Yet in recent years he has seemed to have a renewed commitment to healthy living, even announcing in the fall that he'd lost about 90 pounds since March.

The enormously popular conservative radio host has been expressing his political views three hours a day, five days a week for more than two decades.

With only rare appearances by guests or interviews, Limbaugh's program is a monologue, with occasional pre-screened callers. His brand of conservative talk radio has spawned many imitators, although none has reached his level of influence on political discourse.

He boasts an audience of about 14 million listeners and gets most of his headlines from his controversial statements.

Earlier this year, he generated controversy when he expressed interest in becoming a part-owner of the St. Louis Rams. The deal never came to fruition but several players came forward in October to say they would not take the field if Limbaugh won his bid.

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