Cheney hospitalized for elective back surgery

September 17, 2009 8:49:47 AM PDT
Former Vice President Dick Cheney is having elective back surgery at George Washington University Hospital. Cheney spokeswoman Lucy Tutwiler says the surgery Thursday is to deal with lumbar spinal stenosis, a common cause of lower back pain in older adults.

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal -- the passage for the spinal cord -- which in turn puts pressure on nerves, causing pain. Surgery is done to widen the passage and ease that pressure, typically by removing a bit of the vertebra.

Dr. Anthony Caputy, chairman of the hospital's neurosurgery department, is performing the operation.

Cheney is 68 years old. He has had four heart attacks.

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