WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney, who has had four heart attacks, underwent three hours of tests at a Washington hospital yesterday after suffering shortness of breath, but went home when doctors found no abnormalities.
"I feel fine," Cheney, 63, said as he walked out of the George Washington University Medical Center and waved to reporters.
"Sorry we ruined your Saturday," said his wife, Lynne Cheney.
Because of Cheney's long history of heart trouble, neither he nor his doctors were inclined to ignore signs of a potential problem.
The vice president went pheasant hunting in South Dakota last week and returned to Washington on Thursday with a cold. Yesterday, his cough and breathing distress had grown, and his cardiologist, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, said Cheney should go to the hospital for a round of heart tests. Reporters quickly gathered outside to await news.
White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. notified President Bush shortly after the president finished a bike ride at a Secret Service training facility outside Washington that the vice president had gone to the hospital, White House spokesman Ken Lisaius said.
Cheney spokeswoman Mary Matalin soon issued a reassuring statement noting that Cheney had walked into the hospital. The vice president, she said, was wearing street clothes and walking from room to room as he awaited the results of his blood test. She said an electrocardiogram, taken to measure the heart's electrical activity, showed no change.
By the end of the day, Cheney's doctor confirmed that the cold, not his heart, must be the source of Cheney's breathing troubles.
"Tests ruled out any cardiac cause of the vice president's symptoms. Tests also ruled out pneumonia and other pulmonary causes. The vice president likely has a viral, upper respiratory infection," Reiner said in a statement issued by the White House.
Cheney suffered his first heart attack in 1978 when he was 37. In 1988, he underwent quadruple bypass surgery after suffering his third heart attack. Four years ago this month, while the election results from Florida were in doubt, Cheney suffered what doctors described as a "very slight" heart attack, and he underwent angioplasty to open a clogged artery.
After his fourth heart attack, Cheney said he quit smoking and began a daily exercise program and started watching his diet. He also had a pacemaker implanted in his chest in June 2001.
The vice president campaigned across the country for the re-election of Bush and himself. In September, Cheney took time during the bitterly partisan contest to call former President Clinton in the hospital, where Clinton was awaiting bypass surgery.
"I just called to let him know we're thinking about him," Cheney told reporters at the time. "I've been through a similar experience before. The key was to have the good sense to go get it checked if you thought you had a problem, which he obviously did."
Cheney followed a somewhat less frenetic campaign schedule than the other principals, but on the weekend before the election, he flew to Hawaii for a campaign appearance in hopes of switching the normally Democratic state to the Republican column.
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.
A summary of Vice President Dick Cheney's heart problems:
1978: Cheney's first heart attack.
1984: His second heart attack.
1988: After suffering his third heart attack, Cheney had quadruple bypass surgery in August to clear clogged arteries.
2000: Cheney suffered what doctors called a "very slight" heart attack, his fourth, and underwent an angioplasty to open a clogged artery.
May 5, 2001: Just over 100 days later, Cheney felt chest pains and underwent another angioplasty to reopen the same artery.
June 30, 2001: Cheney returned to the hospital and had a special pacemaker called an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or ICD, inserted into his chest. During his annual checkup this year, doctors said the device had never automatically activated to regulate, which they said meant the heart was functioning normally.
After the 2000 heart attack, Cheney quit smoking, began a daily 30-minute regimen on the treadmill and began eating healthier. He takes medication to lower his cholesterol.