Defense Secretary Les Aspin was hospitalized again late Tuesday and is likely to undergo surgical implantation of a cardiac pacemaker to help control his heart problem, possibly as early as today, the Pentagon announced.
The move, which was unexpected, followed a surprise recurrence of a bronchitis condition that had complicated Aspin's heart problem in February and led to his hospitalization then for 3 1/2 days. He was released on Feb. 25.
Aspin had planned to have the pacemaker implanted sometime in April but was persuaded to accelerate the procedure Tuesday after complaining of excessive coughing, a symptom that his physicians attributed to a return of the bronchitis.
The Pentagon said that the secretary would undergo tests Tuesday night and early today to decide how to treat the bronchitis and then be given the pacemaker implant. The procedure would be done using a local anesthetic, with Aspin still fully conscious. He is expected to be in the hospital a week to 10 days.
Officials said that the defense secretary was in touch by telephone and would not be turning his duties over to Deputy Secretary William J. Perry.