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Cheney treated for heart problem

Vice President Dick Cheney was treated “without complication” Wednesday for an abnormal heartbeat, his office said, making a short visit to a hospital to restore his normal rhythm with an electric shock.

It was the second time in less than a year that Cheney, a 67-year-old with a history of four heart attacks, had experienced and been treated for an atrial fibrillation. The episode caused the vice president to cancel his attendance at a political campaign event in Illinois.

Sensing a problem early Wednesday, Cheney saw the White House physician, who discovered the vice president was experiencing a recurrence of the irregular heartbeat. Cheney participated in regular morning briefings with President Bush, among other duties, and remained working at the White House until he went to George Washington University Hospital in the afternoon for treatment.

The process took about two hours, after which Cheney went home, said Megan Mitchell, a Cheney spokeswoman.

“An electrical impulse was delivered to restore the heart to normal rhythm,” she said. “The procedure went smoothly and without complication.”

Cheney told Bush of his condition. The president responded “like he would with any friend,” said spokesman Tony Fratto, by wishing the vice president well and telling him to “go and make sure the doctors do what they need to do.”

Later, in Ada, Mich., Bush told reporters that Cheney is “going to be fine.”

“He said he was confident, the doctors are confident, and therefore I'm confident,” Bush said.

Cheney also experienced atrial fibrillation in November 2007, and doctors also administered an electrical shock then in a treatment that took about 21/2 hours. That irregular heartbeat was discovered while White House doctors were treating the vice president for a lingering cough from a cold.

Dr. Zayd Eldadah, director of cardiac arrhythmia research at Washington Hospital Center, said it's not unusual for Cheney to have another such episode. An estimated 2.8 million Americans have atrial fibrillation, the most common type of irregular heartbeat and one that is not life-threatening in itself.

Cheney has had four heart attacks, starting when he was 37, and many heart-related doctor's and hospital visits over the years since. He has had quadruple bypass surgery and two artery-clearing angioplasties. In 2001, he had a special pacemaker implanted in his chest. The pacemaker's battery was replaced last year, and then the entire device was replaced.

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