TODAY   |  February 12, 2010

Dr. Snyderman on Clinton’s surgery

NBC’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman weighs in on the former president’s surgery and explains that patients who have had a quadruple bypass often need maintenance procedures.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> morning. thank you very much. dr. nancy snyderman is nbc's chief medical editor, and she joins us now. nancy, good morning to you.

>> hi, matt.

>> i was surprised to see him walking out of the hospital. i've known people who have gone in for minor surgery and they wheel them out in a wheelchair.

>> but this is bill clinton , and this is the standard. you go in, have that blood vessel opened, the stent put in and there's no reason to walk out. rest over the weekend, but then back to his life.

>> what does this tell us about his overall health, nancy? he had a quadruple bypass two years ago, now two stents placed in a blocked artery. what does it tell us about the condition of his heart and heart disease ?

>> one, that the heart disease is extensive. that's why he had the coronary arteries bypassed and the stents not put in several years ago. and we know that in about 20% of patients who have undergone regular bypass surgery , the arteries would block up again. and the idea that stents being put in not all that unusual, but it underscores the most basic thing -- once you're diagnosed with heart disease , you can talk about reversing it or dialing it back a little bit, but it's a chronic condition. it's a little bit like damaclesord. you can go on to have a real life , but this is a real problem.

>> i was interested in what cardiologists said, the blockage was not because of the president's diet or lifestyle. then what is it because of?

>> well, probably genes and his eating habits when he was a youngster. we know that in toddlers, in teenagers who have not had healthy lifestyles, you can start to see that plaque build-up. and he is a product of his generation. now, can you make the case for the fact that stress, never being on the same time zone , may be additional factors? probably, but he lost weight, he's been good about his medicines, he's never been a smoker. he's going to go back to the big lifestyle.

>> quickly, he had symptoms on wednesday, didn't get in to see a doctor on thursday because of the snow, mostly. but let's just make sure we give some news you can use here. if you have the kind of symptoms, the chest pains that he had, get to a doctor quickly.

>> this is the president, a former president of the united states . a snowplow would have gone and picked him up. if you have underlying heart disease and you suddenly have overwhelming exhaustion, shortness of breath, that foreboding feeling of just not feeling well, you have to assume that maybe it's cardiac in origin, and that's when you speed dial your cardiologist and you get to where your doctor is. 48-hour wait does not make me happy and i'm sure it didn't make his doctors happy.

>> nancy snyderman here with us in vancouver. thanks very much.

>> you bet, matt.