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Tuesday
Jan042011

Vice President Dick Cheney: In Need of Heart Transplant?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- After a lengthy recovery period following heart surgery last summer, former Vice President Dick Cheney is quietly and slowly re-emerging in public, attending several holiday cocktail parties and planning to attend an event marking the 20th anniversary of the Persian Gulf War, The New York Times reports.

The Times said that at several holiday receptions in Washington last month, a "noticeably thinner" Cheney chatted about the heart pump he had implanted last summer to treat his recurring heart disease.

Cheney's office did not immediately respond to a request by ABC News for comment.

The former vice president underwent the procedure last July after it became clear, he said at the time, that he was "entering a new phase of the disease" when he began to "experience increasing congestive heart failure."

"After a series of recent tests and discussions with my doctors, I decided to take advantage of one of the new technologies available and have a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) implanted," Cheney said in his statement then.

The LVAD is 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.

Cardiologists said that in Cheney's case, the pump is likely a "bridge" that will keep him alive until he can receive a heart transplant. Many cardiac experts said at the time of his surgery that Cheney may be only one step away from a transplant but could find himself on a wait list for "months or years."

"It's a really good strategy," said Dr. William Abraham, director of the division of cardiovascular medicine at Ohio State University, which does 75 to 100 implantations a year.

"It's reserved for people who have end-stage heart failure, and advanced and heroic therapies have been tried, and after folks have optimized evidence-based and guideline-recommended drug therapies," he said. "Their heart conditions have progressed to a state where the mortality risk is very high and they turn to LVADs and transplants."

The New York Times reports that Cheney associates said he has returned to his favorite pastime of hunting and has been spending time at his home in Jackson Hole WY., where he has been spotted at the grocery store and saw the film True Grit in recent days.

Cheney has a long history of heart problems. He has had five heart attacks, the first in 1978 when he was just 37 years old, and the fourth in November 2000, after he and former President George W. Bush were elected to the White House.

In 2001, Cheney had a pacemaker installed into his chest, and in September 2009, he underwent elective back surgery to treat lumbar spinal stenosis.

Cheney was admitted to the George Washington Hospital on Feb. 22, 2010 after experiencing chest pains. His doctors later said it was a mild heart attack -- his fifth. He was released two days later.

The Times reports that Cheney is scheduled to fly to Texas later this month to mark the 20th anniversary of the Persian Gulf War with former President George H. W. Bush, the emir of Kuwait and other alumni of the first Bush Administration, including former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and Colin L. Powell, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time.

Cheney served as Secretary of Defense under George H. W. Bush.

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