Dick Cheney Has Heart Pump Installed

Former Vice-President Cheney has apparently entered a far grimmer phase of his chronic heart problems than many realized.

We learned yesterday that former Vice-President Cheney had a pump installed in his heart this week:

Former Vice President Dick Cheney disclosed Wednesday that he has undergone surgery to install a small pump to help his heart work, as the 69-year-old enters a new phase of what he called ”increasing congestive heart failure.”

”The operation went very well and I am now recuperating,” a still-hospitalized Cheney said in a statement.

The kind of heart pump that Cheney received can be implanted next to the heart to help its main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, pump blood through the body. Such devices are used mainly for short periods, to buy potential transplant candidates time as they await a donor organ.

But they are being studied for use as a permanent therapy for people with severe heart failure who aren’t transplant candidates.

(…)

The heart pump Cheney received, known as an LVAD for short, is not a cure, said Dr. Samer Najjar, medical director of the heart transplant and LVAD division at Washington Hospital Center. But by rerouting the blood to take over the job of the left ventricle, the pump relieves pressure on the heart.

And once patients recover from the open-heart surgery, they can experience a much better quality of life, said Najjar, who has had LVAD recipients go back to work or resume hobbies like bowling. Najjar had no firsthand information about Cheney’s case.

The typical life expectancy of the recipient depends on whether the device is to be temporary and the person goes on to receive a heart transplant, or if the device is intended for permanent therapy. Recent studies suggest that 63 percent of patients who receive a permanent LVAD can survive two years, Najjar said. Those awaiting a heart transplant tend to have a slightly higher survival.

The details of Cheney’s scenario were not immediately available.

”The expectation is he is going to have an improved quality of life for some time to come,” Najjar said.

Cheney said a few weeks ago it became clear he was ”entering a new phase of the disease when I began to experience increasing congestive heart failure.”

In some corners, there are medical experts weighing in with what seems to be a grim prognosis:

Reading between the lines, you’re left with the distinct impression that Cheney, 69, is entering the late stages of congestive heart failure, that his prognosis is not very good, and that the available treatment options are very limited. That’s my lay person rendering after a close read of this afternoon’s reports. Here’s a more informed read from TPM Reader JK:

I’m a surgeon and just read your wire story about Dick Cheney getting a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) placed. The story downplays the seriousness of that procedures…once you’ve got an LVAD in place, it means your heart is essentially incapable of working on its own and has no potential to improve. While LVAD outcomes have been improving, and some patients live months or even years with one of these devices in place, this is a HUGE operation with MAJOR associated morbidity and mortality. If he’s not listed for a heart transplant, his days are seriously numbered. Life on an LVAD isn’t something I’d wish on my worst enemy…an axiom that this situation really tests. He’s in for a rough time.

According to some television reports I saw last night, one of the side-effects of the LVAD is that, because of the way it functions, the patient may no longer have a measurable pulse. Additionally, Cheney will be required to carry battery packs for the pump at all times and will essentially have to remain plugged in to an electrical outlet when he sleeps at night. Clearly, the former Vice-President has entered a far more serious phase of his heart problems than we’ve seen before.

FILED UNDER: US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    No fan of Cheney, but wouldn’t wish this on anyone. I work in the Medical Device field with surgeons, and often find myself wondering if I would recognize when it is time to just give up. I’m not saying Cheney is necessarily in that place – in fact, on its face it looks like a pretty straightforward equation: reduced mobility, constant worry about power failure vs. death. But one thing I never hear mentioned in cases like this is that every catastrophic event, whether it be heart attack, stroke, or buildup of acid in the blood stream, causes some degree of reduced brain function. And the functions that go first are the higher order ones, the ones that enable you to make the cost/benefit decision. The last one to go is the will to live.

    It always frustrates me that on all those TV shows and movies where the heroic team comes in, pounds on the chest, works and works the patient, hits them with the electrodes and then… “beep, beep” they come back to life, they never show that after 5-7 minutes of no heartbeat those patients will wake up with the cognitive ability of a child. 10 minutes and you’re a vegetable. That’s what DNR is all about.

  2. Gustopher says:

    Is it possible to put an exemption on the organ donor checkbox on my driver’s license that my heart not be given to Dick Cheney?

  3. legion says:

    one of the side-effects of the LVAD is that, because of the way it functions, the patient may no longer have a measurable pulse

    Man, the jokes just write themselves these days…

  4. Steve Plunk says:

    If you can’t say something nice…

  5. An Interested Party says:

    “If you can’t say something nice…”

    You might appear more credible if you followed your own advice…unless I’ve somehow missed the love letters you’ve written about the current administration…

  6. Neil Hudelson says:

    I disagree with the man about many things, but I hope he and his family have lots of support during this. I wish him well.