‘Routine Surgery’: Pence Gets Pacemaker After Slow Heart Rate
Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

On Wednesday, former Vice President Mike Pence, 61, had a pacemaker implanted after doctors determined his heart rate was too slow.

Pence’s office released a statement addressing the development: “Over the past two weeks, former Vice President Pence experienced symptoms associated with a slow heart rate and, upon consultation with his doctors, underwent a procedure yesterday at Inova Fairfax Medical Campus in Falls Church, Virginia, to implant a pacemaker. The routine surgery was successful, and he is expected to fully recover and return to normal activity in the coming days.”

Pence released a statement, saying, “I am grateful for the swift professionalism and care of the outstanding doctors, nurses and staff at Inova Heart and Vascular Institute, including Dr. Brett Atwater and Dr. Behnam TehraniI also appreciate the consultation of my longtime Indiana physicians, Dr. Michael Busk and Dr. Charles Taliercio at Ascension St. Vincent. My family has been truly blessed by the work of these dedicated healthcare professionals.”

In 2016, Pence discovered that he had a left bundle branch block in his heart. Cedars-Sinai explains:

Left bundle branch block is a problem with the heart’s electrical wiring (conduction) system. Your heart has 4 chambers. The 2 upper chambers are called atria, and the 2 lower chambers are called ventricles. In a healthy heart, the signal to start your heartbeat begins in the upper right chamber of the heart (right atrium). From there, the signal activates the left atrium and travels to the lower chambers (right and left ventricles) of the heart. As the signal travels along the heart’s conduction system, it triggers nearby parts of the heart to contract in a coordinated manner.

Two bundle branches carry the electrical signal to the bottom of the heart and cause the ventricles to beat. These are termed the right bundle and left bundle. In left bundle branch block, there is a problem with the left branch of the electrical conduction system. The electrical signal can’t travel down this path the way it normally would. The signal still gets to the left ventricle, but it is slowed down. That’s because the signal has to spread from the right bundle branch through the heart muscle and slowly activate the left ventricle. So the left ventricle contracts a little later than it normally would. This can cause an uncoordinated contraction of the heart. As a result, the heart may eject blood less efficiently. For most people, this is not a big problem. 

In 2016, Pence released a letter written by Dr. Busk, who is not only a doctor of internal medicine but also a pulmonologist, delineating his physical health and underscoring, “The cardiologists feel you have a very good and strong heart.”

In the letter, Busk wrote:

You do cardiovascular training 4 days per week. Your main form of exercise is bicycling. … You are followed by Preventative Cardiology and see the Cardiologist annually. In 2002, you had a heart scan for a total coronary artery calcium score, which was 0 or no calcium deposits (excellent score). You have had extensive evaluations of the asymptomatic left bundle branch block with the Cardiologists at St. Vincent Health. In 2014, you had a graded exercise stress test, transthoracic echocardiogram with Doppler and Color Flow, and a complete cardiac MRI with stress. The evaluations showed a paradoxical septal motion consistent with the asymptomatic left bundle branch block. The complete cardiac MRI with stress demonstrated no evidence for ischemia, no evidence for in ltrative cardiomyopathy, normal left ventricular chamber size and cardiac function, and all the heart chambers and heart valves were normal.

The evaluations did demonstrate borderline to mild enlargement of the proximal aorta. Repeat echocardiograms have shown it to be stable and you are followed annually with an echocardiogram. The evaluations also demonstrated a benign right renal cyst. The cardiologists feel you have a very good and strong heart.

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