Former President Clinton Undergoes More Surgery
Fluid, Scar Tissue Removed From His Chest
March 10, 2005 - President Bill Clinton has successfully undergone surgery to have fluid and scar tissue removed from his left chest cavity, according to reports.
This follows a successful quadruple bypass heart surgery on Sept. 6, 2004 after imaging tests showed up to 90% atherosclerotic blockage in several arteries to the heart.
The scar tissue and fluid developed as a result of inflammation; this prompted the lower lobe of his left lung to collapse, says a statement on the Clinton Foundation's web site.
The American Heart Association says that about 5% to 10% of people develop fluid in their chest after heart bypass surgery.
Most of the time, the body takes care of the fluid, says Hartzell Schaff, MD, professor of surgery, Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn. Less than one percent of those patients require additional surgery to correct it.
It's not an emergency situation, but the former president has had "some discomfort in recent weeks," says the Clinton Foundation statement, adding that Clinton "has otherwise been in very good condition, recently passed a stress test, and is walking up to 4 miles a day near his home in Chappaqua, N.Y."
The problem doesn't always require surgery, says David Jones, MD, chief of general thoracic surgery at the University of Virginia Health System. "Most times, we are able to drain the fluid without surgery," says Jones, a spokesman for the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.
"But when you don't get in early enough, it progresses. It starts as a fluid, then it gets a consistency like Jell-O, and then it causes a fibrous buildup on the lungs, which looks like an orange peel," says Jones.
The procedure, called decortication, carries a low risk and is occasionally needed after open-heart surgery, says the statement. It is a well-recognized complication of open heart bypass surgery.
Decortication refers to a surgical procedure done to free a fibrous capsule that has formed around the lung. In some conditions, such as after an episode of bleeding in the chest, a space that exists between the lung and the outer ribs can fill with fluid.