Heart Stent: George W. Bush's Procedure, Explained

Former President George W. Bush is recovering in the hospital after undergoing a stent procedure to open up a blocked artery in his heart today.

Bush, who is 67, is expected to be released from the hospital tomorrow, as the procedure was performed successfully and "without complication" at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, according to a statement. The blockage was discovered during his annual physical.

Dr. Samin Sharma, M.D., Director of Interventional Cardiology at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, who has not treated Bush, explained to HuffPost that blocked arteries can be detected during an annual physical through a procedure called a stress test, during which a doctor monitors a patient as they exercise (such as on a treadmill or stationary bicycle) to test the heart's ability to respond to stress placed on it by physical exertion.

Symptoms, such as shortness of breath or chest pain, can also indicate a blocked artery; a cardiac CT scan can also detect a blocked artery.

Most people with a blocked artery will end up getting a heart stent, which is a wire mesh tube that keeps an artery open in order to allow blood to flow through. Sharma said about 70 percent of these heart patients will require a stent, 25 percent will be able to manage their condition with just medication, and 5 percent will require open-heart surgery.

Fortunately, for most people, heart stent procedures are same-day procedures, he added. Doctors may choose to keep older patients in the hospital for monitoring for a short period of time.

After a person has a heart stent put in, he or she will likely have to go on blood-thinning medication (such as aspirin or antiplatelet therapy). However, these patients can resume their normal activities just a couple weeks after the stent procedure; they will have to have their heart health monitored every year with a stress test to make sure there is no re-blockage. Sharma said that re-blockages are rare, but do happen occasionally.

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