George W. Bush’s recent heart problems were far more dangerous than generally believed — potentially life-threatening, in fact.
Sources familiar with the former president’s medical situation told National Journal that a major blockage in a coronary artery discovered during Bush’s annual physical exam in August had almost completely shut off blood flow to one of his heart chambers.
“He was more than 95% occluded,” an authoritative source said. “With a blockage like that in a main artery you’re supposed to die. He was pretty lucky they caught it.”
Dr. Jonathan Reiner, an interventional cardiologist at George Washington University who has treated former Vice President Dick Cheney but was not involved in Bush’s care, noted that a blockage of that magnitude wouldn’t necessarily be fatal in all patients but is a very serious situation requiring prompt treatment.
“Every case is different,” Reinert said. “It depends on several factors, including how quickly a blockage has developed. But it’s a very important vessel. If you occlude that particular artery it can kill you.”
A prominent internist who asked not to be identified added that Bush’s blockage, if undiagnosed, would almost certainly have risked “a grave cardiac event.”
Even with a 95 percent blockage, Reiner said, blood will still be flowing through the impaired artery, but the heart muscle must work harder, particularly during vigorous activity. The added strain when blood flow is diminished can lead to serious cardiac complications, including a heart attack.
The 43rd president has exercised regularly for years and is generally believed to be in excellent health. Nevertheless, a stress test that’s standard with all physicals at the renowned Cooper Clinic in Dallas turned up worrisome changes to Bush’s electrocardiogram readings. His physicians quickly ordered up a CT angiogram that revealed the magnitude of the blockage and prompted them to recommend inserting a stent to open the artery. That procedure was done the next morning at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital without complication. Bush spent the night at the hospital for observation and is reported to be recovering normally.
At the time some physicians wondered whether the stent was medical overkill, given that Bush has no known family history of heart disease and is in good shape. Multiple sources knowledgeable about Bush’s condition, however, said there’s no question the treatment was medically necessary.
A spokesman for the Cooper Clinic declined to discuss any aspects of Bush’s care, citing patient privacy. Bush spokesman Freddy Ford also declined comment.
By all appearances, the ex-president has bounced back smartly from his health scare. He’s been cleared to travel, attending the President’s Cup golf matches in Ohio last weekend. He’s also returned to playing golf and riding mountain bikes, but doctors have put limits on his normally-manic speeds and the duration of his workouts.
“He’s back on the bike — easy, not hard,” a friend said. “But he’s feeling terrific and doing fine.”
What We're Following See More »
Along party lines, the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to tighten privacy standards for Internet service providers. "The regulations will require providers to receive explicit customer consent before using an individual’s web browsing or app usage history for marketing purposes. The broadband industry fought to keep that obligation out of the rules."
President Obama commuted the sentences of another 98 drug offenders on Thursday. Most of the convicts were charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs or possession with intent to distribute. Many of the sentences were commuted to expire next year, but some will run longer. Others are required to enroll in residential drug treatment as a condition of their release.
The Department of Justice announced today it's charged "61 individuals and entities for their alleged involvement in a transnational criminal organization that has victimized tens of thousands of persons in the United States through fraudulent schemes that have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. In connection with the scheme, 20 individuals were arrested today in the United States and 32 individuals and five call centers in India were charged for their alleged involvement. An additional U.S.-based defendant is currently in the custody of immigration authorities."
Evan McMullin, the independent conservative candidate who may win his home state of Utah, is quietly planning to turn his candidacy into a broader movement for principled conservatism. He tells BuzzFeed he's "skeptical" that the Republican party can reform itself "within a generation" and that the party's internal "disease" can't be cured via "the existing infrastructure.” The ex-CIA employee and Capitol Hill staffer says, “I have seen and worked with a lot of very courageous people in my time [but] I have seen a remarkable display of cowardice over the last couple of months in our leaders.” McMullin's team has assembled organizations in the 11 states where he's on the ballot, and adviser Rick Wilson says "there’s actually a very vibrant market for our message in the urban northeast and in parts of the south."