NEW YORK – Former President Bill Clinton had two stents inserted Thursday to prop open a clogged heart artery after being hospitalized with chest pains, an adviser said. Clinton, 63, "is in good spirits and will continue to focus on the work of his foundation and Haiti's relief and long-term recovery efforts," said adviser Douglas Band.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton left Washington and headed to New York to be with her husband, who underwent the procedure at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Stents are tiny mesh scaffolds used to keep an artery open after it is unclogged in an angioplasty procedure. Doctors thread a tube through a blood vessel in the groin to a blocked artery, inflate a balloon to flatten the clog, and slide the stent into place.
That is a different treatment from what Clinton had in 2004, when clogged arteries first landed him in the hospital. He underwent quadruple bypass surgery because of four blocked arteries, some of which had squeezed almost completely shut.
Angioplasty, which usually includes placing stents, is one of the most common medical procedures done worldwide. More than half a million stents are placed each year in the United States.
With bypass or angioplasty, patients often need another procedure years down the road because arteries often reclog.
"It's not unexpected" for Clinton to need another procedure now, said Dr. Clyde Yancy, cardiologist at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas and president of the American Heart Association.
The sections of arteries and veins used to create detours around the original blockages tend to develop clogs five to 10 years after a bypass, he explained. New blockages also can develop in new areas.
"This kind of disease is progressive. It's not a one-time event, so it really points out the need for constant surveillance" and treating risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, he said.
The former president has been working in recent weeks to help relief efforts in Haiti. Since leaving office, he has maintained a busy schedule working on humanitarian projects through his foundation.
Clinton's legend as a voracious and unhealthy eater was sealed in 1992, when the newly minted presidential candidate took reporters on jogs to McDonald's. He liked hamburgers, steaks, french fries — lots of them — and was a sloppy eater who could gobble an apple (core and all) in two bites and ask for more.
Two of his favorite Arkansas restaurants were known for their large portions — a hamburger the size of a hubcap and steaks as thick as fists.
He was famously spoofed on "Saturday Night Live" as a gluttonous McDonald's customer.
Friends and family say Clinton changed his eating habits for the better after his heart attack.
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