In 2004, the former president underwent quadruple bypass surgery, after an angiogram revealed that several of his arteries were more than 90 percent blocked. In the past, he's garnered concerned criticism for a love affair with fast food, but was also an avid jogger during his tenure at the White House.
Clinton often blamed genetics for his ticker troubles but also admitted he "may have done some damage in those years when I was too careless about what I ate."
ALSO SEE: Former President Bill Clinton Hospitalized
His advisers aren't sounding alarms after this latest surgery, which was necessary after one of Clinton's grafts became obstructed.
Stent procedures take around an hour, and usually see a patient in and out of hospital within a day. Those done after a bypass typically occur only on an emergency basis. Usually, like in Clinton's case, chest pains are a symptom of something amiss.
A stent is nothing more than a small metal tube that's placed in an artery or vein that's become blocked. The stent is inserted attached to a balloon, which then expands when it's inflated. The stent locks into place, acting like a scaffold to hold open the passage and improve blood flow. Stents are also permanent; the artery lining grows over them after a few weeks.
Surgeons usually insert stents with a catheter near the groin, in the femoral artery, which is then moved up to the heart. More often than not, patients don't even receive anesthesia.
But blocked bypass grafts can be serious and, if not treated immediately, can lead to angina or even heart attack. The problem is relatively rare, at least among those dealing with minor heart disease. More than 90 percent of major grafts still work without problems after 10 years. Usually, arteries that do develop postsurgical blockages are those that were significantly damaged before the bypass.
And even stents aren't a surefire solution. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) concluded that stenting, despite being popular and minimally invasive, carries a higher long-term risk of death than open-heart bypass surgery. More than a third of patients who received stents needed follow-up procedures within three years.
That might not bode well for Clinton's medical future, but he did get the best procedure available for patients with his degree of heart damage. In another study published by the NEJM, researchers concluded that patients who received stents to reopen a blocked graft rather than the alternative balloon angioplasty had "significantly better outcomes," including a lower risk of mortality.
Just as long as Bill takes his medicine. Stents have a reputation for reclosing and for causing blood clots, even a year after surgery. Doctors usually recommend that aspirin or another blood-thinning medication be taken for life.
And Clinton's still got a lot of catching up to do before his cardiovascular problems match up to those of another politician plagued by heart health woes. Both Clinton and Dick Cheney have had quadruple bypass surgery, but Cheney's also had artery stenting, an emergency angioplasty, stenting behind arteries in both knees, and the insertion of a defibrillator to treat a fatally weak heartbeat. The former vice-president has also suffered four heart attacks. Clinton? Still none.