Operation Save Dick Cheney

The vice president undergoes surgery to prevent further troubles with his heart.

Published September 26, 2005 12:54PM (EDT)

As what was once Hurricane Rita beat southeast Texas, Dick Cheney underwent what the White House had previously called elective surgery to deal with aneurysms behind his knees. While Cheney spokesman Steve Schmidt says the vice president is doing well and working from home today, the surgery was more extensive -- and medically controversial -- than initially planned.

Cheney's doctors had planned to implant a stent-graft in Cheney's right leg. In the midst of the six-hour operation Saturday, they decided to perform the procedure on both legs. Vascular surgeons raised unusually pointed questions about Cheney's treatment over the weekend. One told the Los Angeles Times that most practitioners won't use stent-grafts in the knee because they have "not been proven to be efficacious or safe." Another told the New York Times that the decision to work on both knees at the same time was "surprising and a little bit irresponsible." Dr. Thomas R. Bernik, chief of endovascular surgery at St. Vincent's Manhattan Hospital, said that most doctors would say that the double operation "is not the best way to go. But who knows, maybe Cheney said, 'I want to get this over with, and I'll take the added risks.'"

"Who knows" is right. The vice president's health -- he has had four heart attacks -- has often been one of those things the Bush administration would rather not discuss. As the New York Times noted, the White House refused to allow Cheney's doctors to talk to reporters even though two of them said that they would be willing to talk with the press if they were allowed to do so.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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