Bill Clinton’s Madness:
A Consequence of Heart-Bypass Surgery Brain Damage
Need to Understand and Show Some Compassion
One of the savviest politicians of our generation,
known for his wit, charm, and calm under extreme pressure, Bill
Clinton appears out of character in the speeches and interviews
televised since his bypass surgery September 6, 2004—and his mental
deterioration may be accelerating. Remember, this is the president
who withstood public impeachment before the entire world for his
relationship with Monica Lewinski without once losing control. Now,
he is easily angered by hecklers, and makes factual mistakes and
racial slurs while aggressively defending his wife’s campaign for
presidency. Everyone sees his mental and emotional decline, yet to
date, no medical professionals have spoken out about the cause or
a single one—not one bypass surgeon, cardiologist or
psychiatrist—has stepped forward in his defense; even though all of
them are trained to recognize "post bypass surgery cognitive
dysfunction." One of the best-kept secrets in medicine is the brain
damage caused during bypass surgery. During my 40 years of medical
practice I have never heard a doctor warn a patient before bypass
surgery that an expected complication is memory loss. After surgery
when the family complains of dad’s fits of anger, I have never heard
a doctor admit that personality change is a common consequence of
surgery. Yet these well-recognized side effects have been reported
in medical journals since 1969.1
Brain damage during bypass surgery is so common that
hospital personnel refer to it as "pump head." The primary cause is
emboli produced during surgery from clamping the aorta and from the
"heart-lung machine." This machine pumps blood to keep the patient
alive while the heart is stopped during the operation.
Unfortunately, this pump also introduces toxic gases, fat globules,
and bits of plastic debris into the bloodstream of the patient under
anesthesia. Once they are in the bloodstream, these particles
migrate to the brain where they can clog capillaries and prevent
adequate amounts of blood and oxygen from flowing to the brain.
Essentially, all patients experience brain emboli during surgery and
for many the damage is permanent.
In 2001, an article in the New England Journal of
Medicine reported that 5-years after bypass surgery 42% of
patients showed decline in mental function of approximately 20
percent or more.2 A study
published this year (2008) in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery
using MRI testing just after bypass surgery found brain damage in
51% of patients.3 Three years
after their time on the bypass pump, significant permanent reduction
in mental capacity was identified in 31% of patients. I am not
talking major stroke here; but these patients can't remember names
or numbers as they once did, experience sleep disturbances
(including nightmares), suffer mood swings, and lose intellectual
acuity. Approximately 30 percent of people suffer persistent
depression and some even contemplate suicide.
Our former president needs our understanding and
support. A simple explanation by his doctors of the cause of his
recent aberrant behaviors should bring peace of mind to Hillary and
her campaign staff. If Mr. Clinton better understood his current
limitations, he and his staff could take precautionary steps to
avoid embarrassments. A long-overdue explanation would help his
adoring public more easily accept his mistakes and readily forgive
him. It is not your fault, Mr. Clinton.
As importantly, public recognition of the harm done
to Bill Clinton by the heart surgery business would help the
patients who undergo bypass surgery, and their families, to better
understand similar changes they have experienced. A little attention
from the media could also shine some light on the lack of survival
benefits from this $90,000 procedure performed nearly half-a-million
times annually in the US, and the superior benefits coming from diet
and lifestyle changes.
I am saddened to see our former president suffer
from public humiliation, but I am disgraced that my profession has
thus far failed to come forward with a long over-due explanation and
an apology to the Clintons and our nation for the harm they have
done and the secrets they have kept.
John McDougall, MD
1) Hill JD, Aguilar MJ, Baranco A, de Lanerolle P, Gerbode F.
Neuropathological manifestations of cardiac surgery. Ann Thorac
Surg. 1969 May;7(5):409-19.
2) Newman MF, Kirchner JL, Phillips-Bute B, Gaver V, Grocott H,
Jones RH, Mark DB, Reves JG, Blumenthal JA; Longitudinal assessment
of neurocognitive function after coronary-artery bypass surgery.
N Engl J Med. 2001 Feb 8;344(6):395-402.9
3) Knipp SC, Matatko N, Wilhelm H, Schlamann M, Thielmann M, Lösch
C, Diener HC, Jakob H. Cognitive outcomes three years after coronary
artery bypass surgery: relation to diffusion-weighted magnetic
resonance imaging. Ann Thorac Surg. 2008 Mar;85(3):872-9.