Former Vice President Dick Cheney has heart transplant

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Former Vice President Dick Cheney had a heart transplant Saturday morning after waiting more than 20 months on a transplant list, his office reported.

Cheney, 71, received the organ from an anonymous donor and was recovering in the intensive care unit of Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va., after the surgery.

“Although the former vice president and his family do not know the identity of the donor, they will be forever grateful for this lifesaving gift,” aide Kara Ahern said in a statement.

Cheney has battled a lifetime of heart disease, suffering his first of five heart attacks at age 37 and the most recent one in 2010, after which he had a device surgically inserted to assist blood flow through his heart.

The device, known as an LVAD, or left ventricular assist device, has been described as a temporary therapy that provides a “bridge” to a transplant. The device was implanted in Cheney in the same Virginia hospital where his transplant took place.

In July 2010, when the device was implanted, The Times reported that Cheney may not have been a good candidate for a heart transplant, primarily because of his age. Because of the scarcity of available hearts, surgeons typically prefer to reserve them for younger patients with longer life expectancies.

There is no upper age limit for a heart transplant, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute says on its website, though most transplant surgeries are done on patients younger than 70.

Five months after he received the LVAD, a noticeably thinner Cheney said during an interview on NBC’s “Today” show that he would consider seeking a heart transplant.

“I’ll have to make a decision at some point whether or not I want to go for a transplant,” he said in January 2011. “But we haven’t addressed that yet.”

He underwent bypass surgery in 1988 and two subsequent angioplasty procedures to clear narrowed coronary arteries.

Cheney, who served as vice president under George W. Bush from 2001 to 2009, canceled a trip to Canada earlier this month, citing safety concerns.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute reported that about 88% of patients survive the first year after transplant surgery and 75% survive for five years.

The number of active waiting-list candidates — those eligible to receive organs at any given time — was 72,855 for all organs as of Saturday, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.

David S. Cloud in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.