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CNN has produced video of Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 2020 Democrat presidential candidate, right before he was rushed to the hospital for emergency heart surgery.
The Vermont senator is seen taking off his jacket, sweating and eventually sitting as he gave a speech in Las Vegas, Nevada this week.
The network brought on their resident doctor, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, to analyze the video and give his opinion on what it means for Sen. Sanders.
CNN: This morning senator Bernie Sanders is in the hospital and off the campaign trail recovering from a heart procedure.
He had two stents inserted in an artery after doctors found some kind of a blockage. The senator is staying on message.
This is what he wrote, that he is feeling good and is, quote, lucky to have good health care. Joining us now Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Talk to us about the procedure, the two stents, and what that tells you about the senator’s heart.
SANJAY: Well, first of all, procedure is the right word as opposed to an operation. I think a lot of people here hear heart procedure, they think he had open heart surgery.
This is a much less invasive type thing where you’re actually putting a catheter into one of the arteries around the heart. If we have some animation to show this.
That stent balloons up, opens up that blood vessel that is blocked and a titanium cage is in there to hold the vessel open.
He had two that were put in. We don’t know if it was two stents to put into one artery or two arteries were blocked. It’s typically a procedure that doesn’t take very long.
An hour or so. Patient’s awake during this procedure. And, you know, a lot of people have heard of this. This is a commonly done procedure.
Probably more than a million a year done in the United States. That’s likely what he went through. We already know he was up talking, even tweeting not long after.
CNN: Sanjay, it’s interesting to look at what happened to the senator before he went into the hospital for this. He’s very active and energetic on the campaign trail.
But in this moment, you see he takes off his jacket. So he’s overheated. He took a sip of water. Then he asks for a chair.
He makes his way over — oh, we might be looping this. But at some point you see him make his way over to a chair and has to sit down for the remainder of this campaign stop. I mean, what do you see as a doctor when you look at this?
SANJAY: You know, he was subsequently complaining of chest pain. You think about the heart like a big muscle and it’s not getting enough blood flow. That hurts.
And people become uncomfortable. They may become short of breath. They’re obviously concerned. It doesn’t necessarily mean that that was a heart attack, meaning that heart muscle tissue actually died.
We don’t know if that happened. We also know if you’re not getting enough blood flow to a muscle and you get the stent through to help, that pain typically goes away.
That’s why it’s often done. To relieve those sorts of symptoms. I think the big question and we don’t know the answer to this right now, the campaign hasn’t said one way or the other is did he, in fact, have a heart attack or not.
The way that you would tell that is you could actually tell through a blood test. There would be certain proteins in the blood you could measure that could tell whether someone had a heart attack or not. It’s relevant because it might affect his overall recovery.
Look, people can have this stenting procedure done. Someone had a heart attack, they want to observe longer. Check his heart function.
That might take a few days. But still not weeks that we’re talking about for recovery for something like this.
CNN: And talk more about that, Sanjay. Because we’ve seen Bernie Sanders on the campaign trail incredibly vigorous trail. I’ve seen people with this procedure doing pretty much everything pretty quickly.
SANJAY: Yeah. I mean, look. It’s one of the most common procedures. You think about the goal of the procedure. Someone is functioning but not functioning well. If they have chest pain, if they are more active.
The goal of the procedure is to basically restore someone back to their normal level of activity. Open up that blood flow to the muscle. In this case the muscle is the heart.
And people will feel better. And typically, actually, be able to be more active than they were. Because they were limited to some extent by the fact that he was not getting enough blood flow in the first place.
If he had a heart attack, though, then the question is how well is the heart functioning? How well is the heart able to pump blood?
My guess is it’s still pretty well considering how quickly he seems to already have recovered. He’s up talking to friends and stuff. Wasn’t on a breathing machine.
They’re not in an ICU, it doesn’t seem. All these things, I think, bode pretty well. But that’ll be the big question sort of going forward.