Doctor: Clinton Most Likely Recognized Chest Pain as Serious

Former President Bill Clinton is resting at his suburban New York City home following a procedure known as angioplasty, which involved surgeons placing two stents in one of his coronary arteries. Clinton was hospitalized Thursday at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan after experiencing discomfort in his chest.

Clinton adviser Douglas Band said in a statement that Clinton left the hospital "in excellent health."

Angioplasty is done on more than 1 million people a year in the United States.

Compared to a bypass procedure, some advantages of angioplasty are that it doesn't require an incision or general anesthesia, and usually offers a shorter recovery time, the National Institutes of Health said on its Website.

“Angioplasty involves the introduction of a catheter into the heart through the femoral artery in the groin,” Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld, professor of medicine, renowned cardiologist and host of Fox News’ “Sunday Housecall” told “They make an incision and thread the catheter up to the heart. While the catheter is still in place, they thread a balloon up into it that pushes the clot to the side of the artery, and then you remove the balloon and put in a stent to keep the clot from coming back.”

VIDEO: Click here to watch Dr. Manny explain stent placement.

Stents are small, mesh tubes that help support the inner walls of the artery. Some are coated with medications that are continuously released into the artery to help prevent a blockage from forming.

“Risks are minimal, and normally with the stenting procedure, the patient can go home the next day,” Rosenfeld said. “There may be a problem where they inserted the catheter in the groin, there could be a bleed, or sometimes on a rare occasion, the artery that they opened up closes up again, but it’s not very common.”

History of Heart Issues

Clinton is no stranger to heart problems. In 2004, the 63-year-old, known for his love of fast food, underwent a successful quadruple bypass operation to free four blocked arteries.

“Coronary artery bypass surgery has been around for over 40 years,” Dr. Manny Alvarez, managing editor of health at said. “It is one of the most common heart operations done in the U.S., and the success rate has always been predicated on the stability of patient at the time of surgery, as well as the surgical skill of the doctor.”

Even though the surgery in 2004 was a success, Rosenfeld said it’s not uncommon for people who’ve had bypass surgery to need another procedure down the road.

“When a patient undergoes a bypass procedure, they bypass the blockage by grafting a vein or another small artery to an area of the artery beyond where the clot was located,” he added. “But what can happen is that an area of the original artery that was bypassed becomes blocked again or the graft itself is obstructed, so what they do is they stent it.”

Rosenfeld said Clinton most likely realized something was wrong right away.

“So somebody who has already had a bypass is apt to recognize chest pain due to heart disease,” he said. “Clinton, who had bypass surgery in 2004, could tell from previous experience that the pain he was experiencing was due to a blocked artery in the heart."

Some non-cardiac causes of chest pain include indigestion, acid reflux, or referred pain from the spine.

"But someone who has already had angioplasty or bypass surgery, should always make certain that pain in the chest — especially behind the breast bone – is something for which they should seek immediate medical attention,” Rosenfeld said.

The former president has been working in recent weeks to help relief efforts in Haiti. Since leaving office, he has maintained a busy schedule working on humanitarian projects through his foundation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.