- The Washington Times - Monday, September 6, 2004


Former President Bill Clinton’s heart-bypass surgery, expected today, likely will be an ordinary replumbing of his ailing heart, not some new whiz-bang robotic or “keyhole” procedure, leading surgeons say.

A source close to the former president who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Mr. Clinton told him that open-heart surgery was scheduled for this morning.

Mr. Clinton has been hospitalized since Friday after suffering chest pains and shortness of breath. The delay in his surgery also suggests a problem typical for many patients — doctors and nurses off for the holiday weekend.

“I am surprised they are waiting that long,” said Dr. Mamdouh Bakhos, chairman of cardiovascular surgery at Loyola University Health System, who, along with other surgeons, speculated about staffing shortages. Dr. Bakhos was responding to early reports that the surgery might be delayed until tomorrow.

Officials at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia, where the former president is hospitalized, have refused to comment.

The former president and his family issued a statement on the Clinton Foundation’s Web site yesterday, saying they felt “blessed and grateful for the thousands of prayers and messages of good will we have received these past few days.”

“While bypass surgery certainly isn’t something to look forward to, we are very lucky that the condition was detected in time to have this procedure before something more serious occurred,” the statement said.

Clinton spokesman Jim Kennedy said more than 26,000 get-well messages have been posted on the Web site.

He declined to be more specific about when Mr. Clinton would have the surgery, saying, “I don’t think there’s going to be an announcement about it ahead of time.”

Medical reasons could explain the surgery delay. Some suggested that the procedure might have been put off to allow Mr. Clinton’s body to clear dye, injected for diagnosis purposes, and Plavix, a blood thinner that Mr. Clinton reportedly was given that can cause excessive bleeding during and after a bypass.

“I think it’s convenience of scheduling and possibly waiting to let the Plavix clear from his system,” said Dr. Timothy Gardner, a cardiac surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania and an American Heart Association spokesman.

Mr. Clinton’s tests showed no heart attack, but a source close to the family said there were three or four clogged arteries. Several surgeons who are not involved in the former president’s care said they didn’t think that his doctors would risk treating him with newer, experimental approaches such as robotic surgery or laparoscopy, sometimes called keyhole surgery.

“With three-vessel disease in a president, I don’t think I’d be doing it,” said Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood, chief of cardiovascular surgery at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., and a spokesman for the American College of Cardiology.

Because Mr. Clinton is only 58 and in good health, “he’ll do fine” with traditional open-heart surgery, Dr. Chitwood said.

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