The New York Times (7/19, Altman) reports that former Vice President Dick Cheney
underwent a procedure to implant a mechanical pump that is now being given to a small
number of people with congestive heart failure. It is generally used in individuals who have
severe heart failure and are at the risk of dying within several months without the device.
These pumps are partial artificial hearts also known as “ventricular assist devices”. They are
implanted as a last resort either for use as a temporary device until heart transplantation or may
at times be used as a permanent device. Former Vice President Cheney has congestive heart
failure most likely resulting from five prior heart attacks. In addition, Mr. Cheney has had
angioplasty to open up blocked coronary arteries and also stents to increase perfusion. He also
had a prior pacemaker and defibrillator.
Approximately 5.8 million people in the United States have congestive heart failure. About
670,000 people are diagnosed with heart failure each year. The most common causes of heart
failure include coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Early diagnosis and
treatment can improve quality of life and life expectancy for those who have heart failure.
The symptoms of heart failure may include shortness of breath during activity, difficulty in
breathing when lying down, swelling of the legs and ankles, and general fatigue and weakness.