State Comptroller William Donald Schaefer was released from University of Maryland Medical Center with a "very good" prognosis yesterday, three days after undergoing angioplasty to clear an obstruction in an artery leading to his heart.
The former Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor will rest during the Thanksgiving weekend but planned on returning to work Monday.
Schaefer, 80, did not suffer a heart attack, as aides had feared when he was hospitalized Saturday complaining of pain and heaviness in his left arm. But doctors suggested that a heart attack could have occurred had he not checked himself in that afternoon, interrupting a birthday luncheon in Little Italy honoring his friend, Gene M. Raynor, former chief of the state Board of Elections.
"The thought really was when he came in - and I saw him along with one of the emergency room doctors - that he was having a severe bout of angina, which you never know whether it's going to progress to a heart attack," Dr. Mary Corretti, a cardiologist, said during a briefing yesterday at the hospital.
Angina is the medical term for pain associated with lack of blood to the heart muscle. In a heart attack, the obstruction is so severe that the heart muscle is damaged.
Schaefer's pain and numbness radiated down his left arm from shoulder to fingertips.
He was taken to the hospital's cardiac catheterization laboratory, where tests revealed that a small vessel running along the back of his heart was 90 percent to 95 percent obstructed.
Dr. William Herzog, an interventional cardiologist, said he performed angioplasty, a common procedure in which a thin tube is passed through a network of blood vessels to the obstruction in the heart, where a tiny balloon is inflated.
The balloon reopens the artery, re-establishing blood flow.
Next, Herzog inserted a thin steel-mesh sleeve into the vessel. The device, called a stent, remains in place and reduces the chance that the artery will close again. Schaefer had some other minor blockages that did not merit treatment, Herzog said.
The comptroller was conscious but sedated during the two-hour procedure. Still, he was able to converse and joke with the doctors and nurses.
"He kept calling me a nice girl," said Corretti, the cardiologist.
Schaefer is only at a slightly increased risk of having a heart attack, she said. He can resume normal activities immediately, and was advised only to watch his diet and take an aspirin a day. Obstructions occur in about 10 percent to 15 percent of all stents, requiring repeat treatment.
His obstruction occurred in a small branch artery rather than one of the main vessels of the heart, Corretti said.
This made his condition less serious that if a major vessel had been involved.
Corretti said Schaefer's overall heart pumping was normal and that his prognosis was "very good."
Schaefer's office, which had been keeping silent about his medical problem until yesterday, released a brief statement in which he thanked his doctors and the rest of the medical staff.
"I look forward to returning to my duties as comptroller and to the next Board of Public Works meeting," Schaefer said in the statement.
The next board meeting is Dec. 12.
As comptroller, Schaefer is one of three members of the board, which rules on millions of dollars in state contracts each month - and which he has used as a platform to frequently criticize the spending practices and policies of Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a fellow board member.
"There's no reason why he can't go back to a full schedule," said Michael Golden, Schaefer's deputy director of communications. "I think he'll relax the rest of the week and go back Monday."
Golden said that Schaefer's intention to run for office in 2002 - for re-election as comptroller, for governor or another office - was unchanged.
"All we know is he's going to run for something," said Golden, who organized yesterday's news briefing staged about 90 minutes after the comptroller's 4 p.m. release from the hospital.
In recent weeks, Schaefer has been attending a series of parties marking his 80th birthday, which was Nov. 2.