WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy was hospitalized over the weekend to have a new stent put in a coronary artery, court spokeswoman Kathleen Arberg said Tuesday.
"There was no evidence of heart damage," she said, describing the procedure as routine.
Kennedy, a 70-year-old native of Sacramento, emerged this year as the swing vote on the closely divided court after the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Last fall, during a regular checkup, doctors found evidence of a clogged artery, and Kennedy had a stent implanted to keep the blood flowing normally, Arberg said. That procedure was not disclosed at the time.
A stent is a small tube-like device used to hold narrowing blood vessels open.
"He experienced chest pains this weekend and drove himself to the Washington Hospital Center," Arberg said. The justice was discharged from the hospital Sunday, the day after the procedure, and returned to work at the court Tuesday, she added.
Kennedy has served on the court since 1988.
Several heart experts said it was rather common for patients who have had stents implanted to have a follow-up procedure within a year.
"It sounds like he had a renarrowing within the stent, which is a natural response. It usually happens within six months or a year," said Dr. Jesse Currier, a cardiologist at UCLA Medical Center. "He has coronary disease, which is not a good thing -- but the second procedure doesn't mean much."
Implanting a stent sometimes "results in inflammation. And if there is a significant narrowing, you do a follow-up procedure," said Dr. Richard L. Morrissey, chief of cardiology at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington. "But we follow a lot of patients in this situation, and they lead full, active lives."
The doctors said that if Kennedy's heart condition was serious, he most likely would not have been discharged from the hospital a day after undergoing the second procedure.