Former President George W. Bush gets heart stent

Former President George W. Bush underwent a procedure Tuesday morning to have a stent placed in an artery after a blockage was discovered in an annual physical examination, according to his office. 


The procedure was conducted at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. According to a statement, the blockage was discovered at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas on Monday and at the recommendation of his doctors, he agreed to go ahead with the procedure which was successful. 

President Bush is in "high spirits," according to the statement and is "eager to return home tomorrow and resume his normal schedule on Thursday. He is grateful to the skilled medical professionals who have cared for him. He thanks his family, friends, and fellow citizens for their prayers and well wishes. And he encourages us all to get our regular check-ups."

For doctors to go quickly to a stenting procedure usually means that the patient had significant symptoms or a very positive screening test, possibly on an exercise test, said Dr. Jeff Brinker, an interventional radiologist and a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

While the speed with which doctors moved to stent might be related to the seriousness of the blockage, it might also be related to Bush’s status, said Dr. Howard Herrmann, a professor of medicine and director of the interventional cardiology program at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center.

“If he was complaining of chest discomfort or if a stress test was particularly concerning then things could happen fast,” Herrmann said. “But by the same token, when you’re the former president, things can happen fast.”

Doctors sometimes opt to implant a stent as soon as they spot the blockage on an angiogram, said Dr. Suresh Mulukutla, director of interventional cardiology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. One reason to wait is if the cardiologist wants to discuss options -- bypass surgery or stenting -- with the patient, Mulukutla said.

Patients can have a blocked artery without symptoms, Herrmann said, underscoring the need for regular check-ups.

“In general, blockages don’t develop overnight,” he explained. “They do take years to develop to the point where blood flow is blocked.”

Whether a stent is used or bypass is chosen depends on where the blockage is and on the health of the patient, Herrmann said. “It’s a complex decision that must be individualized,” he added.

Stenting procedures have become very common in the U.S., Brinker said, adding that between 700,000 to a million are done each year.

It’s not clear yet which artery was stented. But Brinker said it’s unlikely that it was the left main coronary artery because that is the vessel that supplies two thirds of the blood to the heart muscle. In cases where the left coronary artery is blocked, doctors usually choose a bypass procedure, Brinker said.

NBC News' Linda Carroll contributed to this story.