Former VP Cheney Gets an LVAD

July 15, 2010

July 19, 2010 (Washington, DC) — Former vice president Dick Cheney, 69, known to have a long history of heart problems, received a left-ventricular assist device (LVAD) last week because of advancing congestive heart failure, according to a statement released by his office.

"A few weeks ago, it became clear that I was entering a new phase of the disease when I began to experience increasing congestive heart failure," Cheney said in the statement. "After a series of recent tests and discussions with my doctors, I decided to take advantage of one of the new technologies available."

Although the Cheney statement does not say what device he received, the HeartMate II (Thoratec, Pleasanton, CA) was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for transplant-ineligible heart-failure patients. It was approved as destination therapy for patients with end-stage (NYHA class 3b or 4) heart failure who are not suitable for cardiac transplant. The FDA originally approved HeartMate II as a bridge to transplant in 2008, and the device has been available in Europe for both indications since November 2005.

In the pivotal destination-therapy study that led to FDA approval, the survival rate at two years among those who received the HeartMate II was 58%. Overall, roughly half of patients made it to two years without suffering a stroke or requiring their device to be repaired or replaced.

Cheney's LVAD implantation was performed by doctors at Fairfax Heart and Vascular Institute, a Virginia hospital just outside Washington, DC. In his statement, Cheney said the surgery went well and he is recuperating.

Cheney’s Heart Problems Date Back to 1978

Heart problems have dogged Cheney for decades, not all of them his own.

He had a mild heart attack in February 2010, the latest of five he's had since 1978 when he was 37 years old. The former vice president under George W Bush (2001-2009) underwent coronary artery bypass surgery in 1988 after his third MI and received a stent after his fourth in 2000. In 2001, Cheney received an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) and underwent cardioversion for atrial fibrillation in 2007 and 2008.

In 2006, Harry Whittington, 78, the lawyer shot by Cheney on a hunting trip, also had a heart attack when one of the birdshot pellets migrated into the heart and caused an irregular beat.

Interestingly, one analyst sees the glass as half full, at least for the financial and medical communities, when it comes to Cheney's heart woes. "We think the inevitable publicity surrounding such a famous patient will generally be good for the overall LVAD market, since it will raise awareness about LVAD therapy," writes Larry Biegelsen, an analyst at Wells Fargo Securities. "One of the historical barriers to growth of the LVAD market has been lack of awareness among patients and referring physicians, and high-profile cases such as this will only serve to raise awareness, in our view."

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