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Cheney gets treatment for an irregular heartbeat

From the Associated Press

Doctors administered an electrical shock to Vice President Dick Cheney’s heart and restored it to a normal rhythm during a 2 1/2 hour hospital visit Monday.

The procedure was described as a low-risk, standard practice.

Cheney, 66, went home from George Washington University Hospital and was expected back at work today.

Cheney, who has a history of heart problems, was discovered to have an irregular heartbeat around 7 a.m. when he was seen by doctors at the White House for a lingering cough from a cold. He remained at work throughout the day, joining President Bush in meetings with Mideast leaders.

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The irregular heartbeat was determined to be atrial fibrillation, an abnormal rhythm involving the upper chambers of the heart, said spokeswoman Megan Mitchell. He went to the hospital about 5 p.m. and was discharged about 7:30 p.m.

“Atrial fibrillation is extremely common,” said Dr. Zayd Eldadah, an electrophysiologist and director of cardiac arrhythmia research at Washington Hospital Center. “The way to get rid of it right away is to do what he did today. This is standard practice, low risk, easy to do.”

He said Cheney’s underlying heart problems were probably a factor in his atrial fibrillation. Aging is a common factor too.

“He’ll probably have other episodes,” said Eldadah, who is not involved in Cheney’s care. “Atrial fibrillation in and of itself is not threatening. The problem is that it has long-term consequences. It increases the risk of stroke.” He said Cheney probably would be put on the most potent blood thinner.

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About 2.8 million Americans have atrial fibrillation, the most common type of irregular heartbeat, and the number of cases is increasing as the population ages.


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