Magazine article Newsweek

Going under the Knife: What Russia's Top Doctors Can Do for Their President

Magazine article Newsweek

Going under the Knife: What Russia's Top Doctors Can Do for Their President

Article excerpt

What Russia's top doctors can do for their president

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Boris Yeltsin's announcement that he's headed for the business end of a heart surgeon's scalpel comes as no real surprise. The Russian diet is fatty and conspicuously lacking in vegetables, and alcoholism is rampant. Life expectancy for the average Russian male has been dropping for the past six years-it stands at 57. Only four clinics in the country are considered skilled enough to perform the surgery usually employed to correct cardiac problems.

Fortunately for Yeltsin, when you're the president, you can be sick in style. The government has released few specifics about Yeltsin's heart trouble, but it looks like he'll have his operation at the Cardiology Center, the top clinic in Russia. And heart specialists in the United States familiar with the clinic say its staff is well prepared to perform a coronary bypass, the operation Yeltsin seems likely to get.

A few details about Yeltsin's health have made it to the outside. He suffers from angina, chest pain that occurs when the heart tries (and fails) to pump more blood in times of stress or exercise. Officially, Yeltsin has myocardial ischemia, wherein interrupted blood flow can cause pain or, at worst, the death of heart muscle.

Rumors of what really aris the president paint a bleaker picture. Two treatments for "ischemia" in July and last October may actually have been for heart attacks, and the president is reported to have large blockages in his three main coronary arteries, enlarging the left ventricle of his heart. Yeltsin is also reputed to have a drinking problem, which could mean damage to the liver and kidneys, and a further weakening of the heart muscle.

In some cases, doctors eliminate arterial blockage through a procedure called angioplasty, in which a long tube called a catheter is guided through blood vessels to the clog. …

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