President George W. Bush Has Stent Procedure

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Carolyn Kaster / AP

Former President George W. Bush in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on May 31, 2013.

Former President George W. Bush was hospitalized on Tuesday to treat a blocked artery in his heart.

Doctors discovered the blockage during Bush’s routine physical, and recommended a stent to keep the artery open.

That advice has become increasingly popular in recent years to treat chest pain and angina, thanks to advances in stent technology and the fact that the hour-long procedure is less invasive than bypass surgery. While many patients who have had bypass surgery receive stents to prop open arteries that collapse again, the devices are also being recommended in more patients like Bush, who show early signs of heart blockages. More than one million patients receive stents each year, mostly under local anesthesia.

It’s not clear which type of stent Bush received, but the mesh-like tubes, which are permanently inserted into arteries like a scaffold, come in a variety of forms. The original stents approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1994 were made of bare metal, but while they effectively held arteries open to allow blood to flow through, they attracted immune cells and plaque-building molecules, so about 25% of stented arteries were blocked again within six months.

MORE: Clinton’s Heart Procedure: Common for Bypass Patients

To improve the chances that these arteries would remain open, in recent years, the FDA approved versions that are embedded with plaque-fighting drugs, and studies show these stents lower risk of re-blockages to less than 10%. Still, these stents carry some risks – in some patients, they trigger clots to form, and some heart experts say that the original bare metal stents may be just as effective for patients with severe angina than the drug-eluding ones. Studies are ongoing to determine which types of stents may be best for which patients, and whether newer clot-busting drugs are more effective than the stents in keeping blood flowing. But in the meantime, more than half of patients with heart blockages are given stents, and an FDA panel that analyzed the available evidence concluded that patients with stents did not have an increased risk of developing clots and additional heart problems.

Bush’s office released the following statement, and the President urged others to get regular checkups to detect heart issues early, when they are treatable with less risky and less invasive procedures.

During President George W. Bush’s annual physical examination at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas yesterday, a blockage was discovered in an artery in his heart.  At the recommendation of his doctors, President Bush agreed to have a stent placed to open the blockage.  The procedure was performed successfully this morning, without complication, at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.  President Bush is in high spirits, eager to return home tomorrow and resume his normal schedule on Thursday.  He is grateful to the skilled medical professionals who have cared for him.  He thanks his family, friends, and fellow citizens for their prayers and well wishes.  And he encourages us all to get our regular check-ups.