Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld on Cheney Victim's Heart

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from Feb. 14, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

BRIT HUME, HOST: For more on Mr. Whittington and his injuries, we turn to FOX News medical analyst Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld who happens also to be a well-known cardiologist. Welcome doctor.

I see you there in our studio in New York. How sick is this man. Is his life in danger?

DR. ISADORE ROSENFELD, FOX NEWS MEDICAL CONSULTANT: First of all, you have to understand. And unless you’re a doctor all of these press reports will confuse you. Let me explain to you what happened.

Here is a heart. This is the heart muscle. The only way that pellet could have gotten to this heart is through the chest wall. The pellet penetrated the chest wall and probably lodged on the outside or attached itself. It didn’t have the force to really penetrate, I think it probably attached itself to the coverings of the heart muscle or in the superficial part of the heart muscle.

HUME: Let me stop you for a second. One would presume the doctors would have understood — there must have been some kind of an entry wound for that pellet, or would it have quickly covered over and they wouldn’t have known something was inside?

ROSENFELD: I can’t answer that. There was a wound to the chest. They may not have realized that the pellet penetrated that deeply. But what I — in my opinion, what happened was the pellet hit the wall or the heart muscle, sat there, and initially did nothing, so they didn’t suspect anything. After a while it became inflamed and irritated this portion of the heart muscle.

HUME: Just from the presence of the pellet.

ROSENFELD: As a result, the heart started to quiver and go into what we call atrial fibrillation. They picked that up, they did an angiogram or cardiac catheterization and found the pellet. Where does the heart attack part come in?

The pellet damaged a little part of that heart muscle, releasing enzymes which signal heart attack. I don’t want to make it more complicated than it is. The word heart attack means that a portion of muscle has been damaged. Now, 99.999 percent of the time, that damage occurs from a blocked artery or blocked blood vessel. In this case, the damage occurred, the heart attack occurred, from the pellet which hurt the muscle and caused the enzyme changes and electrocardiographic changes.

What is the outlook? I would think with this tiny pellet, I would think the outlook is good. This man doesn’t have heart disease. His arteries are apparently open. His heart muscle is good. It’s just this tiny area that was damaged and should heal. Will they do an operation to take it out? Probably not.

HUME: What will happen? Will the pellet eventually be washed away somehow, what will it happen?

ROSENFELD: It will stay there. There’s nothing that washes the heart muscle.

HUME: How great is the danger of infection?

ROSENFELD: Probably not great, it’s the interior of the heart and there’s no — I mean, they’ll have to watch for it, if it’s infected, they’ll have to treat him with antibiotics, but one can’t predict that. It will probably rest right there.

There are many cases of shrapnel during war which penetrate the chest wall and lodges into the heart muscle and have you a similar picture.

HUME: They are saying he might have to stay in the hospital another week. Does that sound right to you?

ROSENFELD: That sounds about right. The problem is they have to control his at atrial fibrillation. I don’t know if this cardiac rhythm problem has revolved itself. Whether the heart is now beating normally or they need to give him drugs to control the irregular heart rhythm. But a week seems like a reasonable time. If you know, they are not many doctors have experience with pellets in the heart, I’ll tell you that.

HUME: I’ll bet. Your view is a full recovery is likely?

ROSENFELD: Yes.

HUME: Dr. Rosenfeld, a pleasure to have you.

Watch "Special Report With Brit Hume" weeknights at 6 p.m. EST.

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