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Clinton lung surgery called a success

NYC doctors say he's resting; full recovery expected

NEW YORK -- Former president Bill Clinton, a day after hitting the golf course in Florida, was resting comfortably yesterday following an operation to clear up complications from quadruple bypass surgery.

Thick scar tissue and fluid on Clinton's left lung were removed in the four-hour operation, and hospital officials predicted ''even better than a full recovery."

''We expect Mr. Clinton to be walking" within 24 hours, said Dr. Herbert Pardes, president of New York-Presbyterian Hospital/ Columbia University Medical Center.

Clinton's wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, and his daughter, Chelsea, were with him at the hospital in upper Manhattan, where they were said to be thrilled by the successful surgery and positive prognosis. Clinton, who only Wednesday was playing golf, talked with doctors about his game as he was wheeled into surgery around 7 a.m.

He was awake and resting comfortably after the surgery, Pardes said, and he was expected to remain in the hospital for up to 10 days.

In a rare complication from his bypass surgery, the scar tissue had developed because of fluid buildup and inflammation, causing compression and collapse of the lower lobe of Clinton's left lung.

Surgeons removed a rind of scar tissue, in some places up to three-10ths of an inch thick, that had made it impossible to use the minimally invasive videoscopy procedure. Instead, they opted for more traditional surgery.

''It was like peeling an orange," said Dr. Joshua Sonett, one of the surgeons, about removing the tissue. By the end of the operation, Clinton's lung ''was very healthy and looked excellent," Sonett said. ''We expect even better than a full recovery."

The operation was done at the same facility where Clinton underwent open-heart surgery in September. Doctors described it as a low-risk procedure, and Clinton called it routine.

Still, such problems crop up in only a fraction of 1 percent of bypass cases, and doctors said the combination of fluid and scar tissue had decreased Clinton's left lung capacity by 25 percent.

Clinton first noticed the problem when he suffered shortness of breath during his daily 4-mile walk, and the problem was confirmed by his doctors.

Clinton and his family arrived in a sport utility vehicle shortly after 5 a.m. yesterday. The Secret Service, police, and hospital security conducted a sweep of the walkways and corridors of the hospital pavilion as Clinton was whisked through a side entrance.

It was a dramatic change of pace from Wednesday, when Clinton was in Florida at a charity golf benefit for victims of the Asian tsunami. He seemed relaxed, joking about his game and saying he was not worried about the surgery. Doctors said his demeanor was much the same yesterday.

Since his September surgery, Clinton has presided over the opening of his presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., and worked with former president George H. W. Bush on a public relations campaign to raise money for tsunami victims.

The Clintons asked well- wishers to make donations to the American Heart Association in lieu of flowers or gifts. The group set up a special location for making a donation on its website.

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