By DEB RIECHMANN
The Associated Press
Friday, July 27, 2007; 5:24 PM
WASHINGTON -- Vice President Dick Cheney will undergo minor surgery Saturday morning to replace the battery that powers a device implanted in his chest six years ago to monitor his heart and deliver a shock if it ever goes out of rhythm.
"During the vice president's annual physical examination in June, testing of his implantable cardioverter-defibrillator indicated that the device's battery has reached the level where elective replacement of the device is recommended," Megan McGinn, deputy press secretary for Cheney, said Friday.
Doctors must replace the entire battery part of the defibrillator, which would shock his heart if he experiences an irregular heartbeat. The surgery will be performed at George Washington University Hospital.
Dr. John Kassotis, director of electrophysiology at State University of New York's Downstate Medical Center, said that doctors typically use a local anesthetic on the chest and shoulder area below the collar bone. They make an incision and remove the defibrillator's generator, detaching it from wires that are connected inside the patient's heart.
"Then, they will reconnect a new battery," Kassotis said. "They will test that everything is working appropriately, then they will suture him closed. What we do is watch the patient for about an hour, make sure that they're doing fine, and send them home."
During his routine checkup last month, Cheney underwent a stress test, and doctors also checked out the defibrillator, which was implanted in June 2001. The stress test showed no blockages in his heart. Doctors also said then that his defibrillator was functioning properly and that they had not had to treat any irregular beating of the vice president's heart.
Cheney, 66, has a history of heart problems. He has had four heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery, two artery-clearing angioplasties and an operation to implant the defibrillator.
In March, doctors discovered that he had a deep venous thrombosis in his left lower leg. After an ultrasound in late April, doctors said the clot was slowly getting smaller.
In 2005, Cheney had six hours of surgery on his legs to repair a kind of aneurysm, a ballooning weak spot in an artery that can burst if left untreated.