Former Vice President Dick Cheney Receives Heart Transplant

Former Vice President Dick Cheney received a heart transplant Saturday after being on the waiting list for more than 20 months. He does not know the identity of the heart donor and was recovering at the Intensive Care Unit of Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va.

Cheney was not stranger to heart disease. He suffered his first heart attack at the age of 37, with a fifth heart attack occurring in 2010. In 1988, he underwent bypass surgery, followed by two subsequent angioplasties to clear narrowed coronary arteries. He has had a left ventricular assistive device (LVAD) since 2010

Speaking from the ACC's annual scientific session in Chicago, Mary Norine Walsh,MD, FACC, and ACC Board of Trustees member and medical director of cardiac transplantation at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, told USA Today, that "the waiting time for a heart transplant varies, based on a patient's body size and blood type, which must match the donor." The wait for a heart also can be lengthened if a patient has antibodies in their blood that could cause them to reject the new organ, she said. This can happen in people who have had previous blood transfusions, for example, or sometimes in women who have given birth.

According to Walsh, Cheney will now undergo intensive medical care and monitoring to ensure his body doesn't reject the new heart. About half of patients are still alive after 12 years, she noted. Incoming ACC President William Zoghbi, MD, FACC, said Cheney may even fare better than younger people whose immune systems more actively fight new organs, raising concern about rejection.

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