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Pat Robertson, 79, Recovering From 10-Hour Heart Surgery

Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson underwent 10 hours of surgery to repair an irregular heartbeat that put the 79-year-old at higher risk of a deadly stroke or heart attack, his lead surgeon said Monday.

Robertson was back at home in Virginia Beach after his release on Thursday from a hospital in North Carolina. He ultimately will be fitted with a heart monitor, Dr. Andy C. Kiser said.

"Full recovery, that's what I would expect," the cardiothoracic surgeon said in an interview from FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst, N.C., where the surgery was conducted Aug. 19.

Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, underwent what Kiser said was a new approach to dealing with atrial fibrillation, called convergence procedure. It involves cauterizing the continually beating heart muscle with heat generated by a radio frequency. It rewires a portion of the heart, in a sense, to correct the irregular beat.

Kiser said the technique is less invasive than traditional surgery and more effective long-term than drugs and their many side effects.

In a separate but related procedure, doctors also removed an abnormally enlarged left appendage on Robertson's heart. They believe the growth contributed to Robertson's atrial fibrillation.

The appendage was 6 centimeters long, or slightly longer than adult pinkie finger.

"Only the prayers of thousands of believing people kept me on this earth," Robertson said in a statement.

In recent years, Robertson has been successfully treated for prostate cancer, has had partial knee replacement and two previous heart procedures.

Gordon Robertson, who was named CEO of CBN this year and is filling in for his father on the "700 Club," said the elder Robertson is "up and around and doing well."

"I think for the first time in my life I've found him taking seriously the doctor's advice to rest," Robertson said.

The surgery should markedly improve Pat Robertson's quality of life, Kiser said. Patients with atrial fibrillation are two to seven times more likely to have a stroke and are 40 percent more likely to die from it.

Robertson founded the Christian Broadcasting Network, which airs programs in nearly 100 languages in more than 225 countries. Its flagship program, the "700 Club" talk show, reaches 1 million American households daily.

He also founded the Christian Coalition, an influential conservative advocacy group, and angered opponents with controversial statements about current events.

The elder Robertson announced plans to retire next summer as president of Regent University, the private Christian college he founded in 1978. He will continue to serve as chancellor and on the board of trustees at the Virginia Beach school known for its evangelical Christian perspective.

"He's been trying to delegate more and more," Robertson said of his father.

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