Video: Bill Clinton recovering from surgery

  1. Closed captioning of: Bill Clinton recovering from surgery

    >>> last 24 hours back home, a health scare for former president bill clinton . he spent the night in the hospital, though he has just checked out after having two stents inserted in a blocked artery in his heart. right now we'll get the latest from rehema ellis at new york presbyterian hospital . what can you tell us?

    >> reporter: we can tell you that the former president and his daughter, chelsea, left the hospital just a few moments ago, matt, and we also should tell you that the doctors said shortly after the procedure they did on the former president, he was back on his feet and the prognosis is excellent for a full recovery. thursday night, secretary of state hillary clinton arrived in new york from washington to be with her husband. doctors say the former president had been experiencing chest discomfort for a few days before seeing his cardiologist thursday. that cardiologist inserted two metal stints to open a blocked artery in president clinton 's heart.

    >> the procedure went very smoothly. president clinton has since been up and walking around and visiting with his family. he's in good spirits.

    >> reporter: president clinton has a history of heart disease . in 2004 , he had quadruple by pass surgery to open four blocked arteries. clinton , known for his grueling schedule and love of junk food , has not slowed down, but doctors say he did change his lifestyle after that major surgery nearly six years ago.

    >> his cholesterol numbers and other risk factors that we follow have all been excellent.

    >> reporter: this latest scare comes just as former presidents clinton and george w. bush are focusing on relief efforts in haiti. last month, clinton spoke with matt on "today."

    >> as we get into the recovery and the rebuilding phase of this, that's what former president bush and i are supposed to do. we want to keep america involved over the long run.

    >> reporter: a spokesman for clinton pointed out the 42nd president has a fondness for this hospital. not so long ago, he attended a groundbreaking ceremony here.

    >> he'd hoped to come back as a visitor and not as a patient, but nevertheless, he's in great spirits and on his way to a speedy recovery.

    >> reporter: we want to show you some tape now, matt, of the president and his daughter, chelsea clinton , leaving the hospital just a few moments ago. the doctors had said yesterday that they wanted to be clear that the president did not, he did not have a heart attack and there has been no damage to his heart. the doctors also said that, again, the prognosis was excellent for recovery and said that the former president could be back at his desk working on monday. matt?

    >> all right, rehema ellis in new york for us this morning. thank you very much. dr. nancy snyderman is nbc's

updated 2/12/2010 9:31:58 AM ET 2010-02-12T14:31:58

Bill Clinton has a new lease on life, but there's no cure for the heart disease that has twice forced the former president to get blocked arteries fixed.

Treatments like the quadruple bypass surgery Clinton had in 2004 last about a decade on average. Then the blood vessels used to create detours around the clogged arteries start to get blocked, too.

One such blockage sent Clinton to the hospital on Thursday. Instead of fixing it, doctors reopened the original clogged artery and placed two mesh props called stents to keep it open.

It's something he's likely to need again, heart experts say.

"We see people who come in like this every four to five years. Essentially, it's a tuneup," said Dr. Cam Patterson, cardiology chief at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Surprisingly, this doesn't shorten someone's lifespan or give them a bad prognosis, said Dr. William O'Neill, a cardiologist and executive dean of clinical affairs at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine.

Video: Dr. Snyderman on Clinton’s surgery "I've done 10 or 15 in a single patient over a period of time," and they still live long lives as long as they don't have a heart attack and suffer damage, he said.

Clinton has not had a heart attack and has done everything right since his bypass — eating well, exercising, keeping his blood pressure and cholesterol in check, said his cardiologist, Dr. Allan Schwartz at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

"This was not a result of his lifestyle or his diet," Schwartz said at a news conference Thursday night. Since the bypass, "he has really toed the line."

And what good does that do, you may ask?

‘Not a one-time event’
It can keep heart disease from getting worse and fresh blockages forming in new places, said Dr. Spencer King, a cardiologist at St. Joseph's Heart and Vascular Institute in Atlanta and past president of the American College of Cardiology.

Dr. Clyde Yancy, a cardiologist at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas and president of the American Heart Association, agreed.

"This kind of disease is progressive. It's not a one-time event so it really points out the need for constant surveillance," he said.

About 1 million artery-opening angioplasty procedures are done each year in the United States. Nearly 1 in 5 patients who have one have previously had a bypass operation, said Dr. Ralph Brindis, a cardiologist at California-based Kaiser Permanente health plan and incoming president of the cardiology college.

STENTS
A. Baseden  /  AP
Graphic shows how a blocked artery is treated with a stent
"On average, a bypass operation lasts 10 years," Brindis said. "He's a little early for having a problem, but not that early."

Clinton also in the past has partly blamed his heart problems on genetics. There is a history of heart disease in his mother's family. He also has admitted being careless about his diet, has had high blood pressure and before his bypass, had stopped taking a cholesterol-lowering drug he'd been prescribed.

Schwartz emphasized how much of that had changed. Clinton's "numbers" were all good, he said. But heart disease "is a chronic condition. We don't have a cure for this condition, but we have excellent treatments."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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