Cheney Hospitalized, Then Released

(Gold9472: He didn't kick the bucket? Damn.)

By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney was taken to George Washington Hospital early Monday experiencing shortness of breath, a spokeswoman said. He was released four and a half hours later.

Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said Cheney was taken to the hospital at 3 a.m. He was released about 7:30 a.m. Doctors found his EKG, or electrocardiogram, unchanged and determined he was retaining fluid because of medication he was taking for a foot problem.

Cheney, who has a long history of heart problems and has a pacemaker, was placed on a diuretic at the hospital.

The foot ailment forced Cheney to use a cane on Friday.

McBride said the foot condition was not related to surgery last September to repair aneurysms behind both knees or the 64-year-old vice president's lengthy history of heart problems. He has had four heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery, two artery-clearing angioplasties and an operation to implant a special pacemaker in his chest.

It was unclear exactly what medication Cheney was taking for his foot ailment, but a side effect of commonly used anti-inflammatory drugs is fluid retention, which can cause swelling and shortness of breath and strain the heart muscle.

Fluid can also leave the circulatory system and accumulate in various parts of the body, including the lungs, which can cause a shortness of breath.

All anti-inflammatory drugs — popularly known as NSAIDs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, including such drugs as ibuprofen and naprosyn — can cause that side effect. Now that Cheney has suffered it, he should avoid those medications, said Dr. Stuart Seides, associate cardiology director at Washington Hospital Center.

"It's not common, but it's certainly not rare," he said of the side effect. "Non-steroidals, many of which are over-the-counter, are not entirely benign drugs. The fact that they are sold over-the-counter does not mean that they don't have potent physiologic effects."

But once the side effect is treated, Cheney should have suffer no lasting harm from the episode, Seides said.

"It should have no effect on him or his long-term prognosis," he said.

The condition is usually treated with a diuretic.

Cheney has a long history of health problems and suffered his first heart attack in 1978 when he was 37. Ten years later, after his third heart attack, he had quadruple bypass surgery to clear clogged arteries.

Cheney, who has not suffered a heart attack since he became vice president in 2001, began a daily exercise program in 2000 and started eating healthier.

He quit smoking in 1978 and takes medication to lower his cholesterol.