Cheney gets heart transplant

2012-03-25 08:32

Washington -- Former US Vice-President Dick Cheney was recovering on Saturday after undergoing heart transplant surgery, a once risky procedure whose survival rates have improved over the years.

The 71-year-old Republican, who wielded unprecedented power as vice-president during the George W Bush administration's war on terrorism, was in the intensive care unit at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Virginia.

Cheney, who has suffered five heart attacks, the first at age 37, had been on the cardiac transplant list for more than 20 months before he received the heart from an anonymous donor.

"Although the former vice-president and his family do not know the identity of the donor, they will be forever grateful for this lifesaving gift," the spokesperson, Kara Ahern, said.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, about 88% survive the first year after heart transplant surgery and 75% survive for five years. The 10-year survival rate is about 56%.

Bypass surgery

Cheney's transplant followed a series of procedures in recent years to extend the use of his heart. Cheney had bypass surgery in 1988 and later had two angioplasties. In 2001, he had a defibrillator implanted in his chest.

He had a heart pump implanted in 2010 to compensate for worsening "end-stage" congestive heart failure. He said after the operation he was considering whether to seek a full heart transplant.

During Cheney's eight years as vice president from 2001 to 2009, he pushed a "go it alone" world view that enraged his critics and dogged him long after he left public life.

Cheney was a strong advocate for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and was among the most outspoken of Bush administration officials warning of the danger from Iraq's suspected stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons were found.

In recent years, Cheney has appeared increasingly frail in public.

Data kept by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network show that 316 people were waiting for a heart donor in the region two, which includes Virginia and Washington DC, as of March 16.

Political career

Many concerns about heart transplants with older recipients have eased over the years. Some 332 people age 65 and over received heart transplants nationwide last year, more than 13 times the number in 1988, according to data from the network.

The facility where Cheney's operation was performed said on its website that its surgeons performed the Washington region's first successful heart transplant in 1986.

The world's first human heart transplant was performed in South Africa in 1967, but the patient survived less than three weeks.

Before becoming vice-president, Cheney was defence secretary in the George H W Bush administration and served a stint as President Gerald Ford's White House chief of staff in the 1970s.

Former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is waging a struggling Republican bid for president, said Cheney was in his "thoughts and prayers tonight."

"He has been a colleague and friend for many years, and we are glad that the surgery went well," Gingrich said a statement.

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