Cheney Gets Heart Transplant
The statement said that Cheney and his family do not know who donated the heart, but that "they will be forever grateful for this lifesaving gift."
Cheney, who has a well-known history of health problems, and had at least five heart attacks since he was 37.
Previous treatment included a four-vessel coronary bypass graft, two angioplasties, and placement of an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD).
In an interview, Mariell Jessup, MD, a cardiologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, said that it is "a little unusual but not rare" for someone Cheney's age to undergo heart transplantation.
She said his doctors would have evaluated him carefully -- looking particularly at how well his kidneys and liver were functioning and his nutritional status -- to determine whether he was a suitable candidate.
That fact that he waited over 20 months for a new heart "shows the fairness and the transparent nature of the waiting list process in this country," she said.
In terms of the former vice president's outlook, Jessup said that the next few days will be critical as his doctors look for various complications, including infections, kidney damage, respiratory failure, and rejection.
Cheney's transplant will likely provide a boost to public awareness about heart transplants, Jessup said, much like his receipt of a left ventricular assist device made more people aware of that option.
Ventricular assist devices have "truly revolutionized how we approach patients with heart failure and really has changed how we manage these patients," Jessup said.
"Patients who used to die while they waited for a heart transplant can be maintained with a ventricular assist device not only in a healthier state, but they can be ambulatory, they can go home, they can function satisfactorily, and it really has changed everything about heart transplantation."
She said it is useful to be able to point to Cheney when discussing ventricular assist devices with patients.