“Although the former vice president and his family do not know the identity of the donor, they will be forever grateful for this lifesaving gift,” said Cristina Allegretti, a Cheney spokeswoman. “Former Vice President Cheney is thankful to the teams of doctors and other medical professionals at Inova Fairfax and George Washington University Hospital for their continued outstanding care.”
The former vice president, 71, has a long history of heart problems and was put on the transplant list after he was fitted with a battery-powered heart-assist device. He has suffered five heart attacks, the first at age 37. Cheney has appeared increasingly frail in his public appearances.
While heart transplants were once rare in older patients, 332 people aged 65 and over received new hearts last year, more than 13 times the number in 1988, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, headquartered in Richmond.
The organ network said there were 316 people waiting for a heart in Virginia and Washington D.C., as of March 16. Cheney had been on the list for 20 months, Allegretti said.
Organs are given to patients who are most in need of them, as determined by a complex formula developed by the organ network. A patient like Cheney, whose condition had deteriorated steadily in recent years, would have moved up the list as his condition worsened, according to people familiar with the operation of the transplant system.
Inova Fairfax performed the region’s first successful heart transplant in 1986 and is generally considered the leading organ transplant center in the Washington area.
Why a transplant?
End-stage heart failure is the most common condition for which heart transplant is considered an option, Inova Fairfax said on its Web site. Patients referred for heart transplant may have heart failure as a result of coronary heart disease, a hereditary condition, damaged tissue or an infection.
Generally, a patient considered for a heart transplant has already tried other treatments and may have been hospitalized more than once for heart failure. Heart failure is considered “end stage” when other treatments (such as medicine, implanted devices or surgery) have failed to relieve symptoms, the statement said.
Inova’s Heart and Vascular Institute has designed what it calls a “hybrid operating room” for cardiac transplants. It allows cardiac surgeons, electrophysiologists and cardiologists to operate together on the same patient. The hybrid OR reduces surgical time and allows patients to recover faster, with less risk of complications.
“Hospitals today require operating rooms that are flexible and easily adaptable. Our cutting-edge hybrid OR represents the first of its kind,” says Patricia A. Knowles, BSN, RN, MS, CNOR, Administrator, Inova Heart and Vascular Institute.