Former Vice President Dick Cheney announced Wednesday that he has undergone surgery to install a small pump to help his heart work, as the 69-year-old enters a new phase of what he called "increasing congestive heart failure."
"The operation went very well, and I am now recuperating," Cheney said in a statement his office released.
The surgery took place last week at Inova Fairfax Heart and Vascular Institute in northern Virginia, where Cheney said he is receiving care.
A longtime face of the Republican Party, Cheney has dealt with heart problems much of his adult life, including having had five heart attacks since age 37. This new step, the implanting of a pump called a left ventricular assist device, will allow him to resume an active life, he says.
The kind of heart pump that Cheney received can be implanted next to the heart to help its main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, pump blood through the body. Such devices are used mainly for short periods, to buy potential transplant candidates time as they await a donor organ.
But they are being studied for use as a permanent therapy for people with severe heart failure who aren't transplant candidates.
About 5 million Americans have congestive heart failure, in which the heart weakens over time — often as a result of heart attacks — and cannot pump enough blood. Heart transplants are one solution, but few patients find a donor and many are too old or sick for a transplant.
Cheney said it became cleara few weeks ago that he was "entering a new phase of the disease when I began to experience increasing congestive heart failure."
Late last month, Cheney was admitted to George Washington University Hospital for a few days after reporting he was not feeling well. In that episode, he ultimately received medication to treat a fluid buildup related to his aggressive form of heart disease.
On Wednesday, Cheney said that, after testing and consultation with doctors, he underwent surgery last week to install the heart pump. The former vice president offered thanks to those who have kept him and his family in their thoughts.
© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.