ORLANDO -- At a meeting of the American College of Cardiology in
Orlando, the case of Vice President Dick Cheney, now the world's
most prominent heart patient, was often used to highlight the vast
improvement in cardiac care over recent years.
Leading cardiologists compared the differences in care for Cheney
and President Dwight D. Eisenhower after his serious heart attack in
1955 at age 64. Cheney quickly returned to work after two brief
hospitalizations since November for a mild heart attack and
procedures to open constricted arteries.
During a vacation in Denver, after Eisenhower had complained of
chest pains during the night, his doctor ordered Mamie Eisenhower to
cuddle up in bed next to her husband, to keep him warm, until he was
taken to the hospital in the morning. There doctors treated him with
the standard care of the day, which included a combination of drugs,
a stay in an oxygen tent and bed rest. Then, doctors had little more
to offer Eisenhower because few of the now standard drugs like clot
busters existed, and there were no angioplasties, stents, coronary
care units, defibrillators, pacemakers, ultrasound or bypass
As often happens in celebrity medicine, cardiologists cited
Cheney's case in making a point about heart disease, which is the
leading cause of death in this country. At a news conference, for
example, an expert entered data from Cheney's case into a hand-held
computer to illustrate how processing the information with data from
key medical studies could help doctors deliver state-of-the-art care
starting in the emergency room and continuing after discharge.
President Bush paid tribute to the research that enabled Cheney,
60, to survive four heart attacks since he was 37, a coronary bypass
operation in 1988 and allowed him to reach high office.
Six years ago, the American College of Cardiology asked Cheney to
speak at its annual meeting and paid his $10,000 fee.
This year, Bush invited himself to the meeting, described Cheney
as a model patient who exercised regularly and pushed away desserts,
and jocularly said Cheney stayed home because "he said he has seen
enough cardiologists lately."
Cheney and his doctors have provided substantial but not full
details of his case in news conferences and interviews. His
apparently successful treatment has led some cardiologists to
publicly criticize their profession for not beating its own chest to
show how an improved understanding of heart disease and development
of newer drugs and sophisticated technologies have extended Cheney's
Turning Cheney into a teaching case was one response to such
criticism, and it generally met with favor despite the objections of
one moderator of a panel at a news conference.
Dr. David R. Holmes Jr. of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.,
refused to allow cardiologists to answer a reporter's question about
how new findings from a study under discussion might apply in a case
The question concerned treatment of restenosis, the complication
Cheney recently developed after a stent was placed in a coronary
artery in November. In rejecting the question, Holmes said he wanted
a scientific discussion and not speculation about an individual