Murkowski to undergo 2nd heart procedure

Posted: Sunday, May 18, 2003

Doctors in Seattle will perform another angioplasty surgery on Gov. Frank Murkowski on Monday to clear a blocked artery, his office said.

Murkowski, 70, has been in Seattle since Wednesday undergoing tests at Virginia Mason Medical Center. He was sent there after doctors here found an anomaly during a physical therapy session.

Press Secretary John Manly said the governor is staying in a Seattle hotel during the tests and continues to be in contact with lawmakers and staff.

The Legislature, which is scheduled to adjourn on Wednesday, is considering Murkowski's proposed fiscal 2004 budget and a slew of other legislation, including a statewide sales tax.

Manly said the governor is in daily contact with Chief of Staff Jim Clark and also is in contact with legislators, trying to sway votes for the sales tax measure.

"Yesterday, he made quite a few phone calls to legislators about the sales tax. He's engaged here," Manly said.

The governor underwent an angioplasty procedure April 9 at Providence Alaska Medical Center after doctors discovered a branch of his left coronary artery was between 95 percent and 98 percent blocked. A stent was inserted to keep the walls of the blood vessel open.

Dr. George Rhyneer performed the first procedure after Murkowski had gone to a doctor complaining of dehydration and fatigue. Rhyneer, who performs 70 to 80 angioplasty operations a year at Providence, was out of town and could not treat Murkowski this time, Manly said.

The procedure involves inserting a catheter to inject dye for an angiogram. Once the blockage is revealed through an X-ray, a catheter and a guide wire is used to position a sausage-shaped balloon at the problem spot. The balloon is inflated to compress plaque there against the sides of the artery.

The balloon is then withdrawn and a metal mesh stent is inserted into place to keep the artery open.

It was not immediately clear to what extend the artery is blocked, Manly said.

Murkowski was walking on a treadmill during physical therapy in Juneau when medical staff noticed what was described as a "blip" in the heart data, the governor's office had said.

Murkowski was referred to the Seattle hospital by doctors in Anchorage who were unavailable to perform the most recent tests, Manly said. The governor has undergone a battery of tests for the past two days and expects to return to work on Tuesday, Manly said.

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