NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former President Bill Clinton underwent a successful heart procedure on Thursday to open a blocked artery in his heart with two stents after he had experienced chest discomfort, his spokesman said.
Clinton, 63, had quadruple heart bypass surgery in 2004 to free up four blocked arteries and the latest incident comes after he has traveled twice to Haiti to help recovery efforts after a devastating earthquake there.
“Today, President Bill Clinton was admitted to the Columbia Campus of New York Presbyterian Hospital after feeling discomfort in his chest,” Douglas Band, counselor to Clinton, said in a statement.
“Following a visit to his cardiologist, he underwent a procedure to place two stents in one of his coronary arteries. President Clinton is in good spirits, and will continue to focus on the work of his foundation and Haiti’s relief and long-term recovery efforts,” Band said.
Having stents placed in heart arteries is a relatively quick and routine procedure among patients like Clinton who have suffered from heart disease.
Stents are tiny mesh tubes used to prop open heart arteries that have been cleared of blockages via angioplasty. They are now often coated with drugs to help prevent reclogging.
Clinton’s chest pains were possibly caused by failing grafts from the quadruple bypass heart surgery he had six years ago, a cardiologist said on Thursday.
“If he had four grafts it is not surprising that one of them would start to fail by now,” said Dr. Cam Patterson of the University of North Carolina, adding they last on average about 10 years.
Clinton was president from 1993 until 2001 and like many Americans he has struggled with his weight.
He presided over eight years of economic prosperity and political tumult during a presidency tarnished by a sex-and-perjury scandal that led to his impeachment and a bitter fight to stay in office.
While in office he was known for his love of burgers and junk food and was also seen regularly jogging.
Following his 2004 heart operation he has looked trim and fitter than while he was president — something he attributed to the South Beach diet, which excludes processed foods and favors lean meat.
Clinton joined with former President George H.W. Bush in a public campaign to raise money for survivors of the December 26, 2004, tsunami in Asia that killed more than 300,000 people.
He also established a foundation to build his legacy beyond the White House which has pushed big companies and rich people to actively try to fix some of the world’s worst problems.
Most recently Clinton, as U.N. special envoy to Haiti, has coordinated relief efforts after the January 12 Haiti earthquake. His wife, Hillary Clinton, is the current secretary of state under President Barack Obama.
CNN reported that Clinton’s daughter Chelsea was at the hospital with him. A hospital spokesman confirmed he is a patient at the hospital but gave no other details.
David Sherzer, spokesman for former President George W. Bush, said in a statement, “President Bush spoke to Chelsea Clinton this afternoon and was glad to hear that her father is doing well and that his spirits are high.” Clinton and Bush are working together on Haiti relief.
A senior administration official said Hillary Clinton had left Washington for New York but declined to say if there would be any changes to her planned trip to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, due to start on Friday.
Just before his 2004 surgery, Clinton spoke on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” about his heart blockage: “Some of this is genetic and I may have done some damage in those years when I was too careless about what I ate ... I’ve got a problem and I’ve got a chance to deal with it,” Clinton said.
Clinton, a former governor of Arkansas, presided over the nation’s longest economic boom but had many policy setbacks, most notably on his plans for healthcare overhaul which he tried to tackle when he took office in 1993.
He remains popular despite the sex-and-perjury scandal involving his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky that indelibly marked his presidency.
The self-styled “man from Hope,” the name of the small town in Arkansas where he was born, wrote in his memoir “My Life” that his worst day in office came when he admitted the affair to the first lady, who had famously blamed the sex allegations on a “vast right-wing conspiracy” against Clinton.
He was back on the presidential campaign trail in 2007 and 2008 when Hillary Clinton sought the White House on her own.
But he was criticized for his campaigning style and some blamed him in part for her loss. Black leaders, long among his strongest supporters, thought he demeaned then-Senator Barack Obama with some off-the-cuff comments about the role of race in politics.
Since Obama won the nomination and the subsequent election, Clinton has worked to repair any damage and he visits the White House occasionally for talks with the president.
Reporting by New York bureau, Bill Berkrot, Maggie Fox, writing by Mark Egan, editing by Jackie Frank