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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Tony Blair to Undergo 'Routine Procedure' for Heart Flutter

Aired September 30, 2004 - 17:18   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following that breaking news story out of London. The prime minister of Great Britain, Tony Blair, about to undergo a heart procedure tomorrow. We just got a statement from a senior Bush administration official. The statement saying: "The prime minister is in our thoughts and prayers and we wish him the speediest of recoveries."
That statement from a senior Bush administration official. Tony Blair announcing just moments ago he will undergo treatment for what's being described as an irregular heartbeat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, I understand you need some hospital treatment tomorrow. Why is that?

BLAIR: Well, it's this -- I think they call it an atrial flutter that I had last year. It recurred again in August. And actually, it doesn't stop me working. It's not really debilitating in any shape or format all, but this why I'm getting it fixed now. I'm going in for what they call a routine procedure tomorrow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's get some more insight into what the prime minister is about to undergo. For that we bring in our senior medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

An atrial flutter, a routine procedure, is this routine, Sanjay?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is fairly routine. People talk about two types of things, either atrial flutter or atrial fibrillation, atrial fibrillation is more common, atrial flutter a little less common.

Typically what happens in this sort of case, Wolf, and what happened to the prime minister last year was it actually shocked the heart. Think of the heart as a big electrical muscle. Sometimes the electrical conductions don't work quite right. You shock it back into place. That's typically what happens in this sort of situation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And how long does the procedure take? How invasive is it?

GUPTA: Well, you know, it's a little bit hard to figure out exactly what procedure he's talking about, but what it sounds like he's going to have, from he had last year involves basically giving him a little medication to make him sleepy. That could take 20, 30 minutes, and then actually performing the shocking of the heart.

So it's actually putting some paddles on the chest, creating a little bit of a shock there and then allowing him to wake up slowly. The whole procedure is a couple of hours. Patients typically go home either the same day or the next morning, kept in the hospital just for observation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is it usually, though, a symptom potentially down the road, and we hope this is not the case, of some more serious heart problem.

GUPTA: Untreated it can be. And that's why they treat this sort of condition. Sometimes it can be treated with medication. You just give medication to sort of slow down the heart. A normal heart rate is typically 60 to 100 beats a minute. When you're an atrial flutter, sometimes those heart rates can go up to a couple of hundred beats per minute even. You slow that down. If you don't slow it down that could be problematic, putting too much strain on the heart possibly causing a heart attack down the road.

So if it's treated he should be just fine -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope he is. Thanks very much, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, giving us some perspective. The breaking news we've been reporting since the top of the show. The British Prime Minister Tony Blair will undergo this heart procedure tomorrow. He hopes to be back at work by Monday.

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